Shiner by Amy Jo BurnsIntroducing: 15-year-old Wren, the daughter of an Appalachian snake-handling preacher, who's grown up cut off almost entirely from the outside world.
What happens: An apparent miracle at the hands of her father sets off a series of discoveries on Wren's part that open up a different kind of future than she'd envisioned for herself.
For fans of: the depiction of cloistered adolescent lives in Chelsea Bierker's Godshot.
Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz JedrowskiThe setting: early 1980s Poland, crushed by a communist regime; two young men fall in love despite standing on different sides of the political divide.
What other obstacles do they face? Ludwik is a dreamer who wants more than secret encounters, while Janusz is more practical; despite their passion for each other, a sexual relationship with a woman also comes between them.
Reviewers say: This debut is "highly recommended for all who enjoy a tale of love under the most difficult circumstances" (Library Journal).
The Knockout Queen by Rufi ThorpeThe odd couple: misfit California teens Michael (gay and closeted) and Bunny (at 6'3", despairing of ever finding a boyfriend), who find a safe haven in their unlikely friendship.
What happens: Different as they are, they both come from traumatic childhoods and their bond is strong; when Bunny reacts violently in Michael's defense, everything changes.
Read it for: the insightful depiction of an intense adolescent friendship, the flawed and accessible characters, and a sharp writing style.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan BraithwaiteStarring: hardworking, practical Korede; her beautiful sister Ayoola, who seems to have developed a habit of killing her boyfriends.
What it's about: Korede is the one who disposes of the bodies and keeps her sister out of jail. But when the handsome doctor with whom Korede has fallen in love notices Ayoola and asks for her number, Korede faces a dilemma.
Why you might like it: This darkly funny debut captures the crowded streets of Lagos, Nigeria and complex family relationships with equal skill.
Little Gods by Meng JinWhat it is: a debut novel that follows grief-stricken 17-year-old Liya as she travels to China to learn more about her recently deceased mother Su Lan -- a complex, remote woman obsessed with her research in theoretical physics.
Narrated by: Liya herself; Su Lan's former neighbor, who remembers a happy woman at odds with Liya's understanding of her mother; and Yongzong, Su Lan's husband and father to Liya, who he never knew.
Read it for: the slowly pieced-together picture you'll form of Su Lan; the experimental writing style.
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwanWhat it's about: the relationships that develop between young Londoner Charlie, his girlfriend Miranda, and the android Adam, one of the first 26 "manufactured humans" who can pass as real.
Why you might like it: Readers curious about artificial intelligence and fans of the HBO show Westworld will appreciate the novel's playful, intriguing approach to coexisting with "robots." The alternate version of the 1980s, in which Alan Turing has had a greater influence, is fun too.
The Ultimate Betrayal by Kimberla Lawson RobyWhat happens: In this 12th in the Reverend Curtis Black series, his daughter Alicia is about to remarry her first husband...but isn't quite ready to give up the man who broke up her marriage.
What else? Alicia's best friend, Melanie, is busy with her own serious problems -- and their stories alternate as they spiral out of control.
Read it for: lots of tension, plenty of drama, and a direct writing style, all of which makes for a "compellingly readable" (Kirkus Reviews) novel.
Tin Man by Sarah WinmanThe perspectives: A middle-aged widower reflects on the loss of his much-loved wife, and on the intense relationship he'd formed with another boy, Michael, as a teen, but from whom he's now estranged. In the second half of the novel, Michael has his turn.
What it's about: love in all its forms; art as driving force; grief.
Read this next: Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, Moshik Sakal's The Diamond Setter, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, or John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies.
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