First Sentences in YA Lit

Here are 30 first sentences. Do you know the books they go to? If you know what I’ve been reading lately you’ll have an advantage, but I threw a few old favorites in just to keep you guessing. Um, obviously if the suspense is killing you it’s easy enough to find the answers online (which is why this isn’t a contest, just an excuse to use the information from my first-line notebook). I’ll post the authors & book titles on Monday.

The interesting part of this exercise is the discovery that some first lines are definite hooks. I know which ones I think are amazing, and I know which ones, well, aren’t. And there are a few that are not winning first sentences, but if you stick around for the rest of the paragraph–Wow (I’m thinking specifically of #17 when I write this).

Take a guess if you feel like it, or just enjoy!

1. We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

2. It was a dark and stormy night.

3. I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.

4. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

5. I don’t believe in ghosts.

6. The tree woman choked on poison, the slow sap of her blood burning.

7. Chauncey was with a farmer’s daughter on the grassy banks of the Loire River when the storm rolled in, and having let his gelding wander in the meadow, was left to his own two feet to carry him back to the chateau.

8. Blood fills my mouth.

9. In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.

10. Her parents were going to kill her for this.

11. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.

12. On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.

13. Mommy forgot to warn the new babysitter about the basement.

14. Janie Hannagan’s math book slips from her fingers.

15. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

16. “Please tell me that’s not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.”

17. There were only two kinds of people in our town.

18. Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape.

19. Torrential rain was pouring the afternoon Rebecca Brown arrived in New Orleans.

20. Dad had Uncle Eddie round, so naturally they had to come and see what I was up to.

21. It didn’t take Phoebe long to figure out Jeremy wasn’t coming back for her.

22. “Guess who?”

23. Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. 

24. Some things start before other things.

25. Flames shot high, turning the night lurid with carnival light.

26. Everyone’s seen my mother naked. 

27. Jason was going to Brain Camp. 

28. I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

29. My mother used to tell me about the ocean. 

30. There are these bizarre people who actually like physical education class.

Author Friends: I’d love to read your first sentences, too! Post them below.


  1. Seven N Blue · May 21, 2010

    OMG I just LOVE this post! Here’s the first sentence of The Innocents.

    “Will you guys please, just leave me alone?” I said jumping into my bed and hoping they would close the door on their way out.

  2. Creepy Query Girl · May 21, 2010

    Ugh man. Another game at which I totally suck. Wasn’t the first one moby dick?

  3. Neda · May 21, 2010

    I have no time to be commenting on this post, but oh it’s a good one! Recognize Graceling, Harry Potter, Certain Slant of Light, YOUR BOOK!! GO SAVAGE AUTUMN!, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Kelly Armstrong’s first Darkest Power but I don’t remember the name, I think also maybe Shiver but I never really read it “2 kinds of people?”. You’ll have to post the answer to these later because some of them I really want to know. I can’t believe I don’t remember “It was a dark and stormy night.” I am going to feel like an idiot!

  4. Dana · May 21, 2010


    I’m so bad at this game. I recognize four, and that’s counting your book.

  5. bethhull · May 21, 2010

    Don’t worry everyone, I’ll post the authors & titles on Monday! The image, though, with “Call Me Ishmael” isn’t from YA lit, so I can tell Creepy Query Girl the answer here: Yup, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

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