Let's Talk About It: What's the Deal with Debuts?

May 27, 2016

After struggling to dig in to anything over the last couple of weeks, I finally caught my stride and devoured the last two-thirds of Nicole Dennis-Benn's Here Comes the Sun. I am so grateful that I sat in on her panel at BEA, because her debut novel is stellar. Here Comes the Sun tackles the struggles of working-class women in Jamaica through the turbulent story of one family, and it should be on everyone's wish list for when it comes out this July.

And now that I've got debut novels on the brain (and on the Kindle—I'm keeping in this vein with Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller), I have started wondering what, if any, relationship I have with first works. Glancing through my Goodreads ratings over the years, there are not any trends that pop out. (This is further complicated by the fact that I am sure I have read books that I didn't know are their authors' first works offhand.) Some have been great, some less so, with my ratings converging on the middle of the road.

I think this ambivalence reflects how I think about debuts as well. Slapping the word "debut" on the marketing copy for a new book can work against it for me. I am particularly wary about requesting review copies of debuts because I don't have any prior experience with the author and cannot investigate any of their earlier work. I will often wait to see reactions from trusted bookish folk and then head to the bookstore or library. On the other hand, knowing that a novel I'm already digging is an author's debut can heighten my enjoyment of it. It can often take a book or two for authors to hone their voices, so writers that shine in their first titles never fail to impress me.

My super-scientific Twitter survey about this topic reveals that you all seem to have mixed feelings about debuts, too! Some of you love them and find yourself hesitating more over second novels (what if it doesn't live up to the first one?), others of you are picky about the types of debuts you seek out, and others among you could not care less if something is an author's first work.

So what's the deal with debuts, then? I suppose all this is to say that there isn't a deal with debuts, at least not for me right now. I do want to devote more time to reading them, and I will be keeping an eye on my thoughts as I read Fuller's novel and work through my BEA stack (also, perhaps unsurprisingly, full of first novels).

What's your relationship with debuts like? Can't get enough, avoid 'em like the plague? Let's chat!

You Might Also Like