The finest first novels reviewed in Booklist over the last 12 months take readers into a climatically and socially dire future and a traumatic past as well as the churning minds of an autistic girl, a reluctant mother, a concerned daughter, an intrepid college freshman, and an undocumented Mexican immigrant.
by Omar El Akkad
The American South has once again attempted to secede from the Union amid the ravages of global warming in El Akkad’s gripping cautionary tale of one family’s struggles to survive in a catastrophically disrupted world.
The Fortunate Ones
by Ellen Umansky
by Benjamin Ludwig
Compellingly narrated by autistic, newly adopted Ginny Moon, who, at 13, can’t forget her birth mother or sister, Ludwig’s novel is an unforgettable page-turner about family and how special-needs children are treated.
by Rachel Khong
The Gringo Champion
by Aura Xilonen, Translated by Andrea Rosenberg
by Elif Batuman
Batuman’s entrancing and droll debut novel, set in 1995 and narrated by a high-strung Turkish American Harvard freshman who spends her summer teaching English in a Hungarian village, incisively dramatizes the messy forging of a self.
No Other World
by Rahul Mehta
An immigrant family from India is besieged by secrets, suppressed desires, the hardships of western New York, racism, sexual abuse, and loneliness in Mehta’s vivid and emotionally resonant first novel of personal and cultural collisions.
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
by Cherise Wolas
The Shell: Memoirs of a Hidden Observer
by Mustafa Khalifa, Translated by Paul Starkey
Donna Seaman is Adult Books Editor for Booklist, a recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, a member of the Content Leadership Team for the American Writers Museum, and a frequent presenter at literary events and programs. Seaman’s new book is Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists.