Grabbed by the Throat

by | May 15, 2023

When I am choosing a book to read, I like to sample the first couple of pages to get a feel for how the author uses language, the point of view, the voice, that kind of thing. In the days I lived in Halifax, I would sit myself down in the back room of Woozles Children’s Bookstore with a pile of possibles and spend the next half hour or more reading. Now that I live in Pugwash I either use my local library or read a sample on iBooks before purchasing.

Novels introduce you to the story in various ways. Some writers like to set the scene, establish landscape, tone, ease into the world of they have created. Others like to drop you right into the action with a bang.

Through the years I have appreciated those stories that had such riveting opening lines or paragraphs, that I could not put them down. They grab you by the throat and dare you to stop reading.

Here are some of my favourites from my young adult collection:



Dream about trees? Oh, come back! Come…


But so strange…

Eva was lying on her back. That was strange enough. She always slept facedown. Now she only knew that she wasn’t by the sensation of upends and downess– she couldn’t actually feel the pressure of the mattress against her back. She couldn’t feel anything.She couldn’t be floating? Still dreaming?

    When she tried to feel with a hand if the mattress was there, it wouldn’t move. Nothing moved! Stuck!

    In a panic she forced her eyes open. It seemed a huge effort. Slowly the lids rose.

    Dim white blur. A misty hovering shape, pale in the centre, dark at the edges.


    With a flood of relief Eva dragged herself out of the nightmare. Mom’s voice. The mist unburied a little, and the shape was Mom’s face. She could see the blue eyes and the mouth now.

    She tried to smile, but her lips wouldn’t move.

    ‘It’s alright, darling. You’re going to be all right.’

    There was something terrible in the voice.

(from Eva, by Peter Dickinson)

“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

‘Need a poo, Todd.’

‘Shut up, Manchee.’

‘Poo, poo, Todd.’ “

(from The Knife of Never Letting Go, Book One of the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness)

“Seven o’clock on Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again. Mrs. Scattergood–the landlady at the Seven Sleepers Inn–swore it was rats, but Maddy Smith knew better. Only goblins could have burrowed into the brick-lined floor, and besides, as far as she new, rats didn’t drink ale.”

(from Runemarks by Joanne Harris)

I could go on and on but dipping into these books has made me want to go back and read them all over again!