I picked 10 novels off my middle grade and young adult shelves. All books I’ve read and enjoyed, but I was curious to pay closer attention to how they start. Do their opening lines have a hook? Let’s take a look:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
This gave me my first realization that this story was told from the point of view of a gorilla. Definitely a hook. The second sentence also foreshadows trouble. And the reader is intrigued to find out what kind of problems a gorilla could have.
Black Chuck by Regan McDonell
Réal hunched into his old jean jacket, running a cut lip between
his teeth and not looking anyone in the eye.
This opener gives an outstanding visual and tells the reader a lot about Réal, doesn’t it? I reviewed Black Chuck earlier this year and definitely put it down as one of my favourite reads of 2018. This opening image sucks you right in.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud
to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
As an opening line, it works because obviously something not normal is coming their way and the reader wants to know what that’s going to be.
However, as a side note, I must ask, has anyone else noticed anything wrong with the whole first chapter of the Philosopher’s Stone? The entire Harry Potter series is written from Harry’s point of view, except this first chapter in book one. The information laid out in this chapter is necessary for the story, and a simple way to fix this would have been to make it an prologue instead of chapter one.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a dark and stormy night.
Hmm… likely one of the worst opening lines. First of all, aren’t all nights dark? It’s unnecessary to say so. It was a stormy night? Sure, okay, but not very hook-ish. This is a fabulous story and worth reading past the opener, but as an first line, it just doesn’t cut it.
Dust by Arthur Slade
Matthew Steelgate had five cents in his pocket and a
yearning for chewing gum and licorice.
This opening line sets the stage for the depression-era time period of the novel. What kid doesn’t love candy? Certainly there’s enough here to give this story a bit more of your attention. The poetic first chapter leads you straight into sinister events, and then your stuck. There’s no way you won’t finish Dust.
250 Hours by Colleen Nelson
I jerk awake at the sudden silence.
I love the surprise here. Who wakes because of silence? Perfectly intriguing to keep the reader moving on to the next line.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The calendar said early March, but the
smell in the air said late October.
The idea of this sentence is similar to 250 Hours, above, giving the reader two opposing ideas. A great way to hook them in to reading on.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
Monsters. Naturally, if the monster arrives on the scene in the first line of the book, you’re going to read on. Superb opener.
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Three hours before the avalanche hits, William Everett is
sitting on an upturned crate, waiting for his father.
Don’t we all want to know what happens between now and three hours from now? And then who survives after three hours from now? Great opening hook.
The Dogs by Allan Stratton
It’s 10 p.m. Mom’s at the living room window staring at the car across
the street. She’s been there for an hours. Our lights are
out so no one can see her.
I gave the opening first paragraph of The Dogs. I think the hook comes in the last sentence. It sets the stage for something worrisome. An excellent reason to keep reading. This opener leads into a story that is edge-of-your-seat creepy.
Go find your favourite book on your bookshelf. Post the opening line in the comments and tell me if you think it’s a good lead-in for the story.
For those of you who are writers, are you re-examining your own opening line for your current work in progress?