In January, we told you about the biggest winter and spring debuts for 2012. Looks like this will continue to be a stellar year for new voices, with several promising first novels vying for a spot in your beach bag this summer.
The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman (Viking). In 1663 Manhattan (aka New Amsterdam), a serial killer is targeting orphans. Who better than a 22-year-old Dutch orphan, Blondine, and an English spy to catch the murderer? Zimmerman is steeped in NYC lore—her other 2012 release is a narrative history about two of the city's most famous residents during the Gilded Age—and this is a story that's sure to please fans of Geraldine Brooks and Tracy Chevalier.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (Dial). This debut is about the bittersweet friendship between a young girl and her uncle's boyfriend, which occurs after the uncle has died of AIDS. It's a slightly quirky, heartfelt family drama that's being compared to Aimee Bender and Charles Baxter.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House). A former Simon & Schuster editor imagines what might happen if the Earth's rotation suddenly started to slow, setting a sensitive coming-of-age story against an apocalyptic backdrop. This one has major YA crossover potential and has already been optioned for film.
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman (Little, Brown). Herman Melville's great-great-grandaughter makes her fiction debut with an evocative novel set in the 1950s, when two cousins from a wealthy family find that adulthood—and marriage—isn't all it's cracked up to be. When they return to their family's summer house on Martha's Vineyard, a violent crime changes everything.
The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood (S&S). The seductive world of the British upper-class is the setting of Wood's psychologically suspenseful debut. Oscar falls in love with wealthy, beautiful Iris Bellwether, but trouble strikes when her brilliant but unstable brother begins holding revivals and claiming to heal illness.
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier (Crown). How can we keep this book—our Reader's Choice most anticipated book of 2012—off the list? It's a twisty family drama that takes place over a single summer, when a woman reads the journals of her friend who died in a plane crash. She discovers that Elizabeth may not have been the person that she—and Elizabeth's husband—thought she was.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Knopf). This fiction debut from an NPR contributor and writer for Outside magazine tells the story of a pilot who is lost and alone after the world has been devastated by a flu epidemic. Then one day he receives a radio transmission: Someone's out there.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Scribner). It's 1918, and war veteran Tom and his wife Isabel take the job of lighthousekeepers on a remote island off the coast of Australia. One night, a boat washes ashore that contains a dead man and a living baby. Isabel, who has buried a child and had two miscarriages, takes it as a gift, but Tom is not so sure. Still, they keep and raise the baby as their own . . . but can they handle the consequences?
The Dead Do Not Improve by Jay Caspian Kang (Random House). This quirky, original debut from the editor of Grantland stars a hipster MFA who turns detective when his elderly neighbor is murdered. They're comparing Kang's humorous voice to Gary Shteyngart and Jonathan Lethem.
Which summer debut are YOU most looking forward to?
Stay tuned for part three, which will cover fall releases.