Top Fifteen First Lines in YA Literature

...is not a suitable beginning! Unless you change it (it's been done) in which case, it is. Thank-you to the era of fairy tales for grinding this perfectly respectable sentence into a cliché pulp.

…is not a suitable beginning! Unless you change it (it’s been done) in which case, it is. Thank-you to the era of fairy tales for grinding this perfectly respectable sentence into a cliché pulp.

 

Note: Some may include the whole paragraph!

1. All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

Violet and Ashton’s father was leaving for America to help decide where time should begin. It was Violet’s duty to retrieve her brother and bring him to the door to say goodbye, but he was not paying attention. Instead, she was absorbed in his piano playing. If she had been luckier, she thought, her twin brother would have inherited her father’s obsession with time, at least insofar as learning to play the piano with some sense of it. 

I got this book at the library today, and fell in love with this opening paragraph. Once I finish it, I plan to compile a list of my favorite books, as I’m sure I’d like to include it! (Feel free to leave semi-harrassing comments below should I forget) Lev AC Rosen is my favourite kind of writer, the kind I would like to be. A perfect fusion of description, detail, long words, and wit. It rouses all sorts of questions, which is of course the reason I was enveloped in the story straight away.

2. Every Day by David Levithan

I wake up. Immediately I have to figure out who I am. It’s not just the body–opening my eyes and discovering whether the skin on my arm is light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I’m fat or thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth. The body is the easiest thing to adjust to, if you’re used to waking up in a new one each morning. It’s the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp.

My first thought: Well thats’ weird. My second thought: Why am I bothering with internal monologue when I should keep reading this great book?! Needless to say, I kept reading until I hit the back cover.

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.

In fact, I’m reading this book right now as well. Laini Taylor is a most beautiful, lyrical fantasy writer, so of course her first sentence would be as breathtakingly eloquent as I expect the rest of the book to be.

4. Half Bad by Sally Green

There’s these two kids, boys, sitting close together, squished in by the big arms of an old chair. You’re the one on the left.The other boy’s warm to lean close to, and he moves his gaze from the telly to you sort of in slow motion.”You enjoying it?” he asks.You nod. He puts his arm round you and turns back to the screen. Afterward you both want to try the thing in the film. You sneak the big box of matches from the kitchen drawer and run with them to the woods. You go first. You light the match and hold it between your thumb and forefinger, letting it burn right down until it goes out. Your fingers are burnt, but they hold the black­ened match. The trick works. The other boy tries it too. Only he doesn’t do it. He drops the match.

Then you wake up and remember where you are.

Told elusively in second-person, Half Bad’s opening pages were refreshing, invigorating enough to keep me reading. And reading, and reading….

5. Matched by Allie Condie

Now that I’ve found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?

If only the rest of the novel had lived up to this. Perhaps it started too deep, leaving the narrative to drown?

6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling

 The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it “the Riddle House,” even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.

I had to find some way to blog about my favourite book of the series. I liked how this book begun, not with Harry, but with Voldemort. Cue ominous music!

7. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

I love how unashamedly whimsical this description is, setting a vivid and cosy mental picture. Ahh, I can almost feel the hairs on my hobbit feet tingling!

8. The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

Sattelite City: The City of the Future proclaimed the billboards. A metropolis completely controlled by the Myishi 9 Satellite hovering overhead like a floating man-of-war. An entire city custom constructed for the third millenium. Everything the body wanted and nothing the soul needed. Three hundred square miles of gray steel and automobiles. Satellite City. A supercity of twenty-five million souls, each with a city more heartbreaking than the next. If it’s happy-ever-afters you want, stay away from the City of the Future. Take Cosmo Hill for example, a nice-enough boy who had never done anything wrong in his short existence. Unfortunately, this was not enough to guarantee him a happy life, because Cosmo Hill did not have a sponsor. And in Satellite City, if you didn’t have a sponsor, and they couldn’t trace your natural parents through public record DNA files, then you were sent to an orphanage until you reached adulthood. And by that time you were either dead, or the orphanage had fabricated a criminal record for you so you could be sold to one of the private labour prisons.  

I like how this starts of as idyllic utopian future, and then spirals into suffocating swarms of depressing. It’s like giving me a map of the story before diving in, so I don’t get lost, but without losing my attention so I put the whole book down. Oh, and Eoin Colfer- I LOVE YOUR WRITING TOO.

9. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

Oops, I managed to blog about Harry Potter twice in one post that, incidentally, has nothing to do with Harry Potter. Oh, and off-subject, but can the Americans in my humble audience tell me why its Sorcerer’s Stone over there? Or are you just as baffled as us?

10. Divergent by Veronica Roth

There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.

This kind of harrowing detail paves the way for a striking dystopian novel, it puts you into their world through eerie details, and it makes you keep reading. The opening line from Insurgent is an honourable mention here.

11. Holes by Louis Sachar

There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. 

Dramatically dry. (no alliteration intended) (also no pun intended) I kept reading to find out just why I found myself at a lakeless Lake destination.

12. Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S Lewis

There once was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

I feel like Eustace is standing right in front of me as I read this, and within those few sparse words, a whole character blooms into life. Evidently, Eustace is a horrible person.

13. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife. 

I will love this first chapter for ever and ever- dripping in secrecy, fear, horror. Oh, and it’s a childrens book!

14. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything. ‘Need a poo, Todd.’ ‘Shut up, Manchee.’ ‘Poo. Poo, Todd.’

‘WHY IS THE DOG TALKING’ is a suitable reaction. Furiously reading the book is an appropriate follow-up.

15. More Than This by Patrick Ness

Here is the boy, drowning. 

Looks like Ness is a master of the elusive first line. It’s an explosive beginning, having the main character die, because you look at the remaining five-hundred pages and think: “There will be something more.”

Honourable Mentions:

I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year old boy. I mean,  sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary, I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.    – Wonder by R.J Palacio

Once, I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn’t have been, and I almost caused a riot. It was because of a carrot.   – Once by Morris Gleitzman

Aliens are stupid.   – The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone. There. Gone. No ‘poof.’ No flash of light. No explosion.   – Gone by Michael Grant

The end of the world began when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car.   – Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

I’ve missed a hundred more, because I haven’t gone onto classics. Do any of these make you want to keep reading? Which ones have I missed? 

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6 responses to “Top Fifteen First Lines in YA Literature

  1. The end of the world began when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car. – Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

    My Favourite. Other than:

    One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone. There. Gone. No ‘poof.’ No flash of light. No explosion. – Gone by Michael Grant

    But still. I also left a LONG comment! But, i have read both those books and they are amazing. Please do a weird but awesome chapter names post!!!

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