Debut Novels: Apr. 2023, Pt. 4 | Prepub Alert

First-timers in literary and pop fiction. 

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Aquino, Melissa Coss. Carmen and Grace. Morrow. Apr. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780063159068. $27.99. CONTEMPORARY

Close cousins suffering a neglectful upbringing in the Bronx, Carmen and Grace see their lives turned around when neighborhood powerhouse Doña Durka takes Grace into her home and assists Carmen as well. The only twist: she’s head of an underground drug empire, and her death leaves the girls in a dangerous position. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Boyd, Jeff. The Weight. S. & S. Apr. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781668007259. $27.99. CD. LITERARY

Things are looking up for Julian Strickland, a Black drummer from Chicago in predominantly white Portland, OR; his indie band is rising, and after a failed first marriage he’s getting close to Black painter Ida Blair. But suddenly Ida won’t return his texts, the band looks to be breaking up, and he feels like the scared Christian homeschooled kid he always was. From an award winner at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Brashears, Monica. House of Cotton. Flatiron: Macmillan. Apr. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781250851918. $27.99. Downloadable. CD. SOUTHERN

Orphaned 19-year-old Magnolia Brown is poor, Black, and stuck in a going-nowhere job at the gas station in her God-obsessed Southern town when a stranger offers her a job modeling at (of all places) a funeral home. It more than pays the bills, but her assignments are getting increasingly creepy. From an attention-getting Affrilachian author; with a 250,000-copy first printing.

Buoro, Stephen. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa. Bloomsbury. Apr. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781635577778. $28. LITERARY

A teenager in northern Nigeria, Andrew Aziza hangs out with rough friends while discussing mathematical theorems and African identity with teacher Zahrah and brilliant friend Fatima, who’s crushing on him. Then he falls for Father McMahon’s niece, the first white girl he sees, but her welcoming party at the church is disrupted by a stranger claiming to be his father and the presence of an anti-Christian mob. Nigerian-born, UK-based Buoro is winner of a Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship; with a 200,000-copy first printing.

Cypher. Sarah. The Skin and Its Girl. Ballantine. Apr. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9780593499535. $28. LITERARY

Even as her family’s ancestral soap factory in Nablus is leveled by an air strike, a baby girl is stillborn to a Palestinian American family; then she bursts into breathing, her skin turning a vibrant (and permanent) cobalt blue. Decades later, she sits by the grave of Aunt Nuha, the family matriarch, and ponders whether to stay in the United States or follow the woman she loves to another country. A Rona Jaffe fellow, Cypher is from a Lebanese Christian family; with a 20,000-copy first printing.

Grillo, Christine. Hestia Strikes a Match. Farrar. Apr. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780374609979. $27. Downloadable. CONTEMPORARY

It’s 2023 (coming soon!), and the United States has devolved into civil war. Fortyish Unionist Hestia is truly alone, her husband and parents having sided with the Confederates; her one true friend is an octogenarian named Mildred, who lives at the retirement village where Hestia works. As Hestia scrambles to find love and meaning, Mildred surveys the current chaos and affirms, “It’ll pass…. It always does.” With a 60,000-copy first printing.

Hoffs, Susanna. This Bird Has Flown. Little, Brown. Apr. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780316409315. $29; pap. ISBN 9780316409414. $16.99. Downloadable. CONTEMPORARY

At age 23, Jane Start had a hit with a song penned by the high-visibility Jonesy, but 10 years later she’s living with her parents and performing karaoke in Las Vegas. On the plane to London, where her manager wants her to recharge, she meets an Oxford professor who makes her hit pause on her career plans. But is he too good to be true? From a cofounder of the Bangles; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

Huang, Ling Ling. Natural Beauty. Dutton. Apr. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9780593472927. $27. CONTEMPORARY

Abandoning a promising career when her parents are injured in an accident, a young pianist ends up working at a classy New York–based beauty and wellness store, where remoras suck out cheap Botox and spider silk is used to craft eyelash extensions. Alas, she’s too in awe of the place to see its essential creepiness. From Grammy Award-winning violinist Huang; with a 40,000-copy first printing.

Metcalfe, Anna. Chrysalis. Random. Apr. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9780593446959. $27. LITERARY

Three people bear witness as a young woman goes through a significant transformation, reordering herself mentally and physically to calm the trouble at her core. At the gym, friend Eliot notices how much stronger she’s become; her mother worries as she moves away from key relationships, including theirs; and her best friend watches over her as she becomes an online phenomenon. From British author Metcalfe, short-listed for several awards; with a 40,000-copy first printing.

Milan, Joe Jr. The All-American. Norton. Apr. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781324035657. $28.95. LITERARY

Korean American high school senior Bucky Yi is looking forward to playing college football when he’s deported to South Korea, where he can’t even speak the language and is forced to pay the debts of the biological father he’s never met. Battling bureaucracy to return home, he learns who he is and what he really wants. From second-generation Korean American Milan, a creative writing professor and former David T.K. Wong Creative Writing Fellow at University of East Anglia.

Shook, Cat. If We're Being Honest. Celadon: Macmillan. Apr. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781250847546. $28. CD/downloadable. FAMILY LIFE

When Gerry Williams dies, his best friend delivers a eulogy that completely upends the family. Gerry’s widow, Ellen, tries to remain dignified, but the cousins run riot with their own upsets. Delia whines about her ex, Alice reels over when she spots her high school sweetheart, suddenly famous Grant (he was on The Bachelorette) seeks to launch an inadvisable affair, and Red wonders where he fits in. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Wharton, Wiz. Ghost Girl, Banana. HarperVia. Apr. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780063239746. $27.99. LITERARY

Of Chinese and British heritage, Lily was a child when she lost her mother, who arrived in London from Hong Kong in the 1960s. Now Lily discovers she’s been named in a stranger’s will, and with Hong Kong about to be handed over to China by the British, she launches a journey of self-discovery. London-based award winner Wharton is of Chinese-European heritage; with a 40,000-copy first printing.

Wheeler, Genevieve. Adelaide. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781250280848. $27.99. Downloadable. CONTEMPORARY

Far from her U.S. hometown, Adelaide Williams is enjoying a carefree existence in London when she falls hard for Rory Hughes. He doesn’t exactly return her affections, but Adelaide is convinced that they are fated to be together and stands by him through a terrible crisis. In the end, she’s the one who falls apart. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

White, Tyriek. We Are a Haunting. Astra House. Apr. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781662601712. $26. FAMILY/URBAN

In this 1980s-set family drama, the death of Key, a beloved doula to the Black women of her East New York neighborhood, shatters both her mother and her teenage son, Colly, who has inherited the family gift of conversing with the dead. After college, he returns to East New York to tackle the structural racism that has led to its neglect. White claims Callaloo and New York State Writers Institute fellowships; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; winner of ALA's Louis Shores Award for reviewing; and past president, awards chair, and treasurer of the National Book Critics Circle, which awarded her its inaugural Service Award in 2023.

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