Everybody knows that book. You know, that book. The one you picked up while strolling through the bookstore. Nice cover with the interesting back jacket. Then you opened the first page.
That first line. The one that made you go: Whoa, I need this book.
Or maybe it wasn’t that in-your-face bold. Maybe it was more subtle. Maybe lyrically beautiful. Perhaps it just painted such a clear picture that you read on to lines two, three, and ten. You didn’t even realize that author had hooked you, possibly because you’re too busy having to know what happens next. That’s the kind of first line that all book lovers crave. The one that says, “Pick me out of a million other books here to take home forever!”
So, first lines, how important are they?
There are piles and piles of books to buy. Enough to reach the sky and who has room for that on their bookshelf? So here’s the deal: All these books and not enough room. Which ones make the cut? Probably not the one that started getting interesting on page 50. Truth is, readers want to be catapulted from their spot in that bookstore to a fictional world. We want to feel tucked between the pages, lost somewhere amongst so many words. And the first line is the place to do it. First lines can irrevocably draw a reader.
What is it that pulls a reader in? Which first lines make you have to know more? For me, it needs a dose of unexpected. A few young adult books on my shelf that absolutely, completely captivated me from the VERY FIRST LINE, and my thoughts:
“They say before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.” –BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
So, wait, she died? In the VERY FIRST line we learn this? Wow. I need to read this book.
“All I’ve learned in today’s Shakespeare class is: Sometimes you have to fall in love with the wrong person just so you can find the right person.” –AS YOU WISH by Jackson Pearce
Well, isn’t that the truth? Buying.
“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” –THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
What? Who’s going to die? And why? Let me just read one or two or a million more lines to find out.
“You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand.” –BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA by April Genevieve Toucholke
This is the first dialogue? Ought to be good. Need to know more.
“My life could not possibly suck more than it does right now.” –TAKE ME THERE by Susane Colasanti
Pretty much the story of my teenage life. Lets see if this character’s torment was anything like my own.
“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers.” SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard
Creepy. Must buy.
“They hung the Unregistereds in the old warehouse district; it was a public execution, so everyone went to see.” THE IMMORTAL RULES by Julie Kagawa
*blinks* Holy wow. An execution from the start? Badass.
These are some of my favorites. What are your favorite first lines? How far into a book are you willing to read before it gets interesting? Do first lines help you determine what stories to read?
***And for the record, all of these books turned out to be exceptional. I’d love to give away one of each, but for now I’ll leave you with a chance to win a SIGNED hardcover of THE IMMORTAL RULES by Julie Kagawa. Open to U.S. You’re welcome J ***