Every year I set out to choose my favorite book releases, and every year it’s nearly impossible! Today I’m back to bring you seven of the best debut books of 2022. Read on to discover even more of my favorites.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
Beatriz knows marrying Don Rodolfo is the only way to save her life. After her father is executed during the Mexican War for Independence, people must believe she’s on the right side. But after the wedding, she arrives at her new home, Hacienda San Isidro, and quickly realizes it isn’t the sanctuary she hoped for. Invisible eyes follow her everywhere, strange messages appear on the walls, and Rodolfo’s sister refuses to enter the house at night. After hearing rumors about the fate of Rodolfo’s first wife, Beatriz must take action before the house destroys her completely.
The Hacienda is a fantastic supernatural gothic novel. Beatriz is the perfect gothic heroine. She’s newly married but isolated and prone to an active imagination. Isabel Cañas’ debut blew me away, and I can’t wait to read more from this debut author.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
Frida Liu is a struggling parent, just like many others. She doesn’t measure up to her immigrant parents’ expectations, and her husband may be having an affair, but her daughter Harriet makes it all worth it. But when Friday has a horrible day and takes her eyes off of her child, the government steps in. The State sentences her to one year in the School for Good Mothers, where she must repeat mantras, practice hugging and parent a robotic doll that looks eerily like Harriet. Faced with the possibility of losing her daughter forever, Frida must prove that she can live up to the rising standards set for mothers.
I have a feeling The School for Good Mothers is going to be on many people’s lists of best debuts. Jessamine Chan’s novel is thought-provoking and intense and far too possible.
Messy Roots by Laura Gao
After emigrating to Texas from Wuhan, China, Laura knows no one will be familiar with her hometown. That is, however, until 2020, when COVID-19 brings Wuhan to the entire world’s attention. Laura just wants to make the baseball team, get out of Chinese school and figure out if she really does have a crush on a girl, but normal teen problems take a back seat to the rising anti-Asian discrimination she sees around her.
This book is a love letter to anyone trying to find themselves. While Messy Roots is obviously a very current book, it’s universal in its themes. Laura Gao’s writing and art combine beautifully into one of the best debuts of 2022.
The Boy With a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund
Owen Tanner was born with a bird in his chest. Her name is Gail, and she’s always been there. His mother taught him to keep Gail a secret; if anyone found out, they would deem Owen a Terror and have him locked up. But when a fire forces Owen to flee his home, he must hide in plain sight with his uncle and cousin in Washington. Among others, for the first time, he attends school, makes friends and even falls in love.
This is a unique and beautiful story about love and acceptance and the importance of letting your real self shine through. If you enjoy books that might make you cry, add The Boy With a Bird in His Chest to your list right away.
The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope
Clara Johnson’s ability to talk to spirits has saved her on more than one occasion. Now, however, she is indebted to them. When the Empress, the spirit who holds her debt, offers her a task in exchange for her freedom, Clara jumps on the opportunity. The assignment, however, is a daring heist: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in town, or lose her life forever.
If you’re looking for a heist story with a twist, The Monsters We Defy is perfect! It grabbed my attention from the first chapter and never let go. Leslye Penelope effortlessly brought 1920s D.C. to life, interweaving it with African American mythology into a fantastic urban fantasy.
The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn
One night in 1928, a whale washes up off the English Channel. It should belong to the King, but twelve-year-old orphan Cristabel and her friends have other plans. Among the beast’s bones, they build a theater where they can escape from the world. But as time passes and World War II looms, Cristabel becomes a spy in Nazi-occupied France, taking on a different sort of role that may tear her found family apart.
The only work of historical fiction on my list of the best debuts of 2022, The Whalebone Theatre is great for long-time history readers and newcomers to the genre alike. It’s an inspiring ode to the uplifting and healing power of the arts in the face of tragedy.
The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes
No one at Yamilet’s new, mostly white, very rich Catholic school knows she’s gay, and she intends to keep it that way. After all, she’s only there to keep her brother out of trouble. But when she meets Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, blending in and keeping her head down gets a lot more complicated.
Sonora Reyes’ debut took the world by storm. The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School even made the shortlist for the National Book Award! It’s about bravery, love and figuring out who you are, all of which make it an easy addition to the best debuts of 2022. Read our full review here!
Did any of your favorite debut books of 2022 make the cut? Let us know below, and keep an eye out for even more of GGA’s favorite things of the year!
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