Monday, December 6, 2010

First Line Battle!

After the cover and jacket blurb, the first thing we encounter with a book is the first line. Not all first lines are created equal - there are almost as many ways to start a story as there are stories to tell! So, because I was bored, I decided to grab two random books out of my gigantic TBR pile, read the first lines, and compare them. The reason I'm comparing the first lines of two books I have not yet read is so the judging is totally blind and I know nothing of the story other than the line I've read.

Competitor #1: Jane by April Lindner

Jacket copy: Forced to drop out an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing revelation from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

First line: "The chairs in the lobby of Discriminating Nannies, Inc., were less comfortable than they looked."

My reaction: Modern take on Jane Eyre? I am so there. No bells and whistles in this first sentence, but it sets the scene. You can pretty much picture exactly where the main character is, what she's doing (shifting around in the chair, trying to get comfortable?) and why she's there, all in one neat, tidy little sentence. When I first read it I thought it was lack-lustre. Nothing fancy happening, no shocking proclamations or anything. But after a little more thought... this is actually pretty genius for what it accomplishes in such few words.

Jacket copy: Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Gray escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star...

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined - and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for... and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall - together and apart.

First line: "It is easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer."

My reaction: Wow, is that line ever classy! For me it conjures an image of some beautiful woman, smoking a cigarette glamourously and telling us this scandalous story. That's my favourite thing about it, the retrospection of it. You can tell that this story will be told by someone who was a participant in the events, and that they are looking back on these events now with a lot more insight than they had at the time. This will (probably) set the tone for the way the whole story will be told. I love the word "effervescent," too. That word might feel really out-of-place in a lot of YA novels, but it totally fits the mood, tone, and time period of this book.

The winner: Bright Young Things

Although I love the instant setting Jane's first line gave us, I'm afraid I'm a sucker for the more intricate language and sophisticated tone of the first line of Bright Young Things. I'm still really excited to read both of these books, and will definitely be posted reviews when I've finished!


  1. Both of these novels sound amazing. First lines are always fun to read and compare. :)

  2. Yeah! I love first lines in general. And last lines! Maybe I'll do something about last lines sometime, as long as they aren't spoiler-y.