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The Best Opening Lines in YA Books

best ya books opening

15 January 2024

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What makes a great opening line in YA fiction?

A good opening line sets up a good book.

It can play an essential role in setting up suspense or mystery. It can convey mood and atmosphere. It may even introduce a question or conflict. (See where I’m going with this?) First lines in books serve various important functions. And before you know it, you’re launched into the story.

Of course, it’s no question then that the best opening lines have a bigger function than kick-starting the first chapter. They hook the reader immediately, sweeping us off to new worlds, compelling us to turn page after page. And we’ll remember that special first line, long after we’ve finished the book. If you’re like me, you’ll have some that standout from all the others.

Here, I share my 20 favourite young adult novels that grab you from the very first line.

1

Shatter Me

Tahereh Mafi

“I’ve been locked up for 264 days.”

Shatter Me Book Cover

2

Cinder

Marissa Meyer

“The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.”

Cinder by Marissa Meyer Book Cover

3

Divergent

Veronica Roth

“There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.”

Divergent by Veronica Roth, book cover

4

An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir

“My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest.”

An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover

5

Illuminae

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

“This is the file that almost killed me, Director.”

Illuminae Book Cover

6

Partials

Dan Wells

“Newborn #485GA18M died on June 30, 2076, at 6:07 in the morning. She was three days old. The average lifespan of a human child, in the time since the break, was fifty-six hours.”

Partials Book Cover

7

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children Book Cover

8

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Book Cover

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke. In the morning, when I opened my eyes, the world was the same.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Book Cover

9

The Raven Boys

Maggie Stiefvater

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

Raven Boys Book Cover

10

Turtles All the Way Down

John Green

“At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time–between 12:37 P.M. and 1:14 P.M.–by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them.”

Turtles All the Way Down Book Cover

11

All the Crooked Saints

Maggie Stiefvater

“You can hear a miracle a long way after dark.”

All the Crooked Saints Book Cover

12

Beasts Made of Night

Tochi Onyebuchi

“I make sure to sit where they can’t see me. From where I’m perched, tucked just out of sight on a pile of rubble, I have a pretty good view of the other sin-eaters, the aki.”

Beasts Made of Night Book Cover

13

Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card

“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.”

Ender's Game Book Cover

14

Mosquitoland

Orson Scott Card

“I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay.”

Mosquitoland book cover

15

Six of Crows

Leigh Bardugo

“Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.”

Six of Crows book cover

17

Feed

M.T. Anderson

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

Feed book cover

18

Howl's Moving Castle

Diana Wynne Jones

“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

Howl's Moving Castle book cover

19

Rebel of the Sands

Alwyn Hamilton

“They said the only folk who belonged in Deadshot after dark were the ones who were up to no good.”

Rebel of the Sands book cover

20

The Fault in Our Stars

John Green

“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

The Fault In Our Stars book cover

A Sentence Doesn’t Come Out of Nowhere

There you have it! A list of 20 best opening lines in young adult fiction. They each have originality, intrigue and urge you to keep reading. I wonder just how much time these authors spent crafting them, as they all have something rather special about them.

Did I miss your favourite first line? Email me at hello@beyondthechapter.com.

Now that you’ve covered brilliant openers, why not explore my favourite best last lines in books.

Eira Edwards profile photo

Written By Eira Edwards

Eira is a writer and editor from the South of England with over five years of experience as a Content Manager, helping clients perfect their copy.

She has a degree in English Literature and Language, which she loves putting to work by working closely with fiction authors.

When she’s not working on manuscripts, you can find her in the woods with her partner and dog, or curling up with a good book.

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