What are your favourite book beginnings and/or endings?
I’ve thought long and hard about what I consider to be a book with a great beginning, and although there are the obvious choices like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (I mean, who doesn’t know the start of that?!) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there are three books whose opening have amazed me for very different reasons.
So, in 3rd place I have Gone by Michael Grant; the first time I read that, I was hooked from the opening paragraph:
“One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.
No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion”
It immediately grabs your attention, which is something I feel is particularly important in a book for teens. It can be so difficult to encourage teenagers to read, in particular boys (I’m speaking through experience with my brother and some friends here, I’m not just totally making things up!), so something with such a sharp and engaging opening leaves you with little choice but to read on! Although the rest of the book is a great read, I’m afraid the same can’t be said for the next five books in the series; they just go more and more downhill – though the fourth book, Plague, is amazing – and just lacks the enjoyment of the first book.
The second book is one I’ve previously reviewed here and I briefly mentioned the beginning, but it’s such a good one that it really deserves to be written about again. The first line of Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas caught me so off–guard and I had to re–read it many times to ensure I wasn’t imagining it. And really, when that line is “Someone must have bitten off her nose.”, do you blame me?! As with Gone, it makes you curious as to what has happened, and entices you to read on – but unlike Gone, it doesn’t tell you straight away what peculiar thing has occurred. Gone at least lets you know that, somehow, a teacher has disappeared; in Quarantine you’re left thinking “Did I really just read that?” It’s certainly a unique way to start a book, and I’ve still never read anything like it.
However, my favourite beginning isn’t one which catches me so unaware, or makes me curious to find out how it happened. No, this is one which, every time I read it, just breaks my heart a little more. Annabel Pitcher’s My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is an altogether beautifully written book (and is again reviewed here), but the beginning of it is just so emotional. I can’t really narrow it down to any particular sentence or paragraph, but the first four pages just have me in tears every single time. If I absolutely had to pick a segment, then it would be the first four sentences:
“My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well, some of her does. Three of her fingers, her right elbow and her kneecap are buried in a graveyard in London. Mum and Dad had a big argument when the police found ten bits of her body.”
Even just typing it out makes me sad! It’s hard to decide whether I prefer books which immediately catch my interest, or which make me feel something right from the very beginning, but I think that My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece does both at the same time. And of course you want to read a book which sounds interesting and doesn’t look like it will drag, such as Gone and Quarantine: The Loners, but I suppose it’s better to have an equal mix of both rather than reading a book which does occasionally make you feel some form of emotion but lacks in interest and character – even worse (in my opinion) would be a book which is an enjoyable read, but you don’t feel anything or care about any of the characters. And books which are both uninteresting and lack any form of character – hello The Dream Thieves! – are just the bane of a book lover’s existence. Luckily, these three books have such great openings and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of reading them.
Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:
8th – http://zarahoffman.com/
15th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
and http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for October’s chain!)