Pick up an M. T. Anderson book and chances are the first line will wow you. Maybe most notably, Feed starts out with “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” In Thirsty, Anderson goes for the foreboding feel with “In the spring, there are vampires in the wind.” And the humor returns with “‘Great scott!’ cried Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut. ‘Your mother just lost her hand in the rotating band saw!’” in The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. Lines like these show how much fun a writer has with his or her work and hopefully serve to pull the reader into the book from the very first words.
Marketing books can be easy if they have famous authors, cool covers or belong to a popular series. But with so many books (and so little time) it’s possible for great titles to get lost in the crowd. Finding interesting ways to display books is one of the things I enjoy about my job. I love seeing titles get checked out from a display I worked on and I always get a little excited when I have to restock. Teens are a busy bunch of people and ready-made displays can make it easy for them to grab a book that interests them.
The “Great First Lines” display has been well used this summer because quotes like “The monster showed up just after midnight.” (A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness) grab someone’s attention and beg to be read. The display preparation was pretty simple. I made a template for the posters and entered great first lines from the selected books as well as an image of the cover, title and author. Once the copies of one book were all taken, I added a new title. Finding great books for this display is easy enough – pick up a few YA titles and scan the first line. Was it catchy? Spooky? Silly? Tantalizing? Use it!
This is a working list of titles I have used for the Great First Lines display. If you have a gem of a first line you’d like to share, please leave it in the comments.
“There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.” The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
“Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.” Abandon by Meg Cabot
“If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life.” The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” Feed by M.T. Anderson
“Things had been getting a little better until I got a letter from my dead sister. That more or less ruined my day.” Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters by Gail Giles
“Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.” The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
“I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.” Chime by Franny Billingsley
“If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it.” The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
“Not every thirteen-year-old girl was accused of murder, put on trial, and proven guilty. But I was just such a girl.” The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes by Louis Sachar
“The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.” Going Bovine by Libba Bray
“There is one mirror in my house.” Divergent by Veronica Roth
“There’s a beautiful girl to my left, another to my right.” Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
“I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body.” Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
“The monster showed up just after midnight.” A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness