If any Middle School pupils (Years 9-11) are after something new to read and on the hunt for inspiration, Mr Jones, Senior Librarian, has put together a wide range of opening paragraphs to scan through.

Most are contemporary Young Adult (YA) novels, ranging from the bestselling John Green, the multi-prize winning Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks, to more contemporary examples. Look out also for some all-time classics, including JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye which has a particularly famous opening. A few adult titles have also been thrown into the mix including Chris Beckett’s stunning science fiction novel Dark Eden which develops its own version of the English language, which is hinted at in the opening paragraph.

Science Fiction

MT Anderson – The Feed

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck. We went on a Friday because there was nothing at all to do at home. It was the beginning of Spring break. Everything was boring. Link Arwaker was like, ‘I’m so null’.”

Chris Beckett – Dark Eden

“Wake up, you lazy new hairs. If you don’t hurry up, the dip will be over before we even get there, and all the bucks will have gone back up Dark!” Hmmmph, hmmmph went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from underground. Hmmmmm went the forest…..”

Virginia Bergin – Rain

“There’s really no point going on about how things used to be. For one, I can’t bear to think about it—even though I do, a lot, and it makes me want to throw up with sadness. For two, it kind of doesn’t matter, does it? It’s over. And for three, I’m not writing this because of how things used to be – I’m writing this because of what happened… so I’ll start right there. This is what happened: I was sitting in a hot tub in my underwear snogging Casper McCloud.”

Amy Tintera – Reboot

“They always screamed. My assignment wailed as she slipped in the mud, whipping her head around to see if I was gaining on her. I was. Her feet hit solid pavement and she broke into a full sprint. My feet grazed the ground as I chased her, my short legs easily overtaking her panicked attempt at running. I yanked her arm. She hit the ground.  The sound that escaped her mouth was more animal than human as she desperately  tried to stand. I hated the screaming.”

Kass Morgan – The 100

“The door slid open and Clarke knew it was time to die.  Her eyes locked on the guard’s boots, and she braced for the rush of fear, the flood of desperate panic. But as she rose up onto her elbow, peeling her shirt from the sweat-soaked cot, all she felt was relief.”


Lauren Oliver – Delirium

“It has been 64 years since the President & the Consortium identified love as  a disease and 43 years since scientists perfected a cure.  Everyone else in my family has had the procedure already. My older sister Rachel has been disease free for nine years now.”

Louise O’Neill – Only Ever Yours

“September.  Ten months until the Ceremony. The Chastities keep asking me why I can’t sleep. I am at the max permitted dosage of Sleep Sound, they say, eyes narrowed in suspicious concern. Are you taking it correctly, Frieda? Are you taking it all yourself, Frieda? Yes. Yes. Now, can I have some more? Please? No more can be prescribed. Not safely anyway, they say.”

Sarah Pinsborough – The Death House

“They say it makes your eyes bleed. Almost pop out of your head and then bleed. Who says? People. I just heard it. You made it up. No I didn’t Will says. Why would I make that up? I heard it somewhere.  You go mad first and then your eyes bleed. I think maybe your whole skin bleeds.”

Scott Westerfeld – Uglies

The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit. Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your  cat only salmon-flavoured cat food for a while, to get the pink right.


Ann Brashares – Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

“Once upon a time there was a pair of pants. They were an essential kind of pants – jeans, naturally, blue but not that stiff, new blue that you see so often on the first day of school.”

Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of being a Wallflower

“Dear Friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that.”

Jenny Downham – Before I Die

“I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger. Whenever I wanted I could get him out and he’d look at me the way boys do in films, as if I’m beautiful. He wouldn’t speak much, but he’d be breathing hard as he took off his leather jacket and unbuckled his jeans. He’d wear white pants and he’d be so gorgeous I’d almost faint. He’d take my clothes off too. He’d whisper “Tessa, I love you”….”

John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

“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 free time to thinking about death.”

John Green – Paper Town

“The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us.”

Claire Hennessy – Nothing Tastes as Good

“Don’t call me a guardian angel. No wings, no heavenly music, no fluffy white clowds here – just me and the Boss (not God, don’t go getting ideas there) and a job. My first. Hopefully my only. “We’ve got a soul in need of help” she says to me, or rather thinks to me, ‘cause, let me tell you, speaking is tricky when you’re lacking a body.”

Eric Lindstrom – Not If I See You First

“My alarm buzzes and I slap it off and tap the speech button at the same time. Stephen Hawking says, “5.55am”. Just double checking like always. I crank open the window and stick out my hand. Cool, misty, but not too humid. Probably overcast. I pull on my sports clothes without bothering to check anything, except all my running clothes are black. Except my scarves. I finger through them, checking the plastic tags, gauging my mood.”

Anthony McGowan – Henry Tumour

“Arsecheese. Well, that’s what I heard. I don’t know if that’s what he really said because that was his first word and I don’t know if he was just learning to speak of if maybe I was learning to hear but that’s what it sounded like. Arsecheese.”

Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor and Park

“XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus. Park pressed his headphones into his ears. Tomorrow he was going to bring Skinny Puppy of the Misfits. Or maybe he’d make a special bus tape with as much screaming and wailing on it as possible.”


Kevin Brooks – Bunker Diary

“Monday 30 January, 10am: This is what I know. I’m in a low-ceilinged building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. It’s about 12 meters wide and 18 meters long. A corridor runs down the middle of the building, with a small corridor leading off to a lift shaft just over halfway down. There are 6 little rooms along the main corridor, 3 on either side.”

Robert Cormier – The Chocolate War

“They murdered him. As he turned to take the ball, a dam burst against the side of his head and a hand grenade shattered in his stomach. Engulfed by nausea, he pitched towards the grass. His mouth encountered gravel and he spat afraid some of his teeth had been knocked out.”

Mark Haddon – Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

“It was seven minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed.”

Jeffrey Eugendes – The Virgin Suicides

“On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide – it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese – the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.”

E Lochhart – We Were Liars

“Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal.  No one is an addict. No one is a failure. The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, handsome. We are old money Democrats. Our smiles are wide, our chins square, and our tennis serves aggressive.  It doesn’t matter if divorce shreds the muscles of our hearts which hardly beat without a struggle.”

David Levithan – Every Day

“Very I wake up. Immediately I have to figure out who I am.  It’s not just the body – opening my eyes and discovering whether the skin is light or dark, whether my hair is light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I’m fat or thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth.”

Anthony McGowan – The Knife that Killed Me

“The knife that killed me was a special knife. Its blade was inscribed with magical runes from a lost language, and the metal glimmered with a thousand colours, iridescent as a peacock’s tale or the slick of petrol on a puddle.”

Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was 14 when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. In newspapers photos of  missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair. This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail. It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen.”


Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the end of the Lane

“It was only a duckpond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big. Lettie said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they’d come here across the ocean from the old country.  Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember proper and that it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.”


Amy Lukavics – The Woman in the Walls

“Walter the cook killed himself in his little bedroom just a few hours after saying “Have sweet dreams little Lucy”. I’m the one who found him, but nobody wants to know about the colour of Walter’s face after he’d been hanging from the beam for hours, the buckle from his belt tight around his neck.”

Jonathan Maberry – Rot and Ruin

“Benny Imura couldn’t hold a job, so he took to killing. It was the family business – and by family he meant his older brother, Tom – and he didn’t like the idea of “business” or work. The only part of the deal that sounded like it might be fun was the actual killing.”

Isaac Marion – Warm Bodies

“I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it. I’m sorry I can’t properly introduce myself, but I don’t have a name anymore. Hardly any of us do. We lose them like cars keys, forget them like anniversaries. Mine might have started with ‘R’, but that’s all I know.”

Lisa McMann – Wake

“Janie’s math book slips from her fingers. She grips the edge of the table in the school library. Everything goes black and silent. She sighs and rests her head on the table. Tries to pull herself out of it, but fails miserably. She’s too tired today. Too hungry. She really doesn’t have time for this. And then…. She’s sitting in the bleachers in the football stadium….”

Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpion Races

“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die. Even under the brightest sun, the frigid autumn sea is all the colours of the night: dark blue and black and brown. I watch the ever changing patterns in the sand as it’s pummelled by countless hooves.”

Maggie Stiefvater – Raven Boys

Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.  Her family traded in predictions. These predictions tended, however, to run towards the nonspecific.


JD Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Mark Twain – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

You don’t know about me without you have read a book called ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr Mark Twain, and he told the truth mainly.

Markus Zusak – The Book Thief

“Here is a small fact: You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations.”

Tony Jones (Senior Librarian & Archivist)