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May 14, 2010 / Chersti Nieveen

analysis: first lines of dystopian novels

Warning: This analysis may contain spoilers. I take an in-depth look at what makes this book work and why. And it may only be helpful if you’ve actually read the book. However, continue reading at your own risk. For more information on the Friday Analysis, go here.

FIRST LINES: dystopian novels

So here’s the time for YOU to shine. Tell me WHAT YOU THINK WORKS and WHY IT WORKS in a comment below. I’ll post my ideas below so we can compare notes.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox — Mary E. Pearson

I used to be someone. Someone named Jenna Fox.

Among the Hidden — Margaret Pearson Haddix

He saw the first tree shudder and fall, far of in the distance. The he heard his mother call out the kitchen window: “Luke! Inside. Now.”

The City of Ember — Jeanne DuPrau

When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.

“They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years,” said the chief builder. “Or perhaps two hundred and twenty.”

“Is that long enough?” asked his assistant.

The Dead-Tossed Waves — Carrie Ryan

The story goes that even after the Return they tried to keep the roller coasters going. They said it reminded them of the before time. When they didn’t have to worry about people rising from the dead, when they didn’t have to build fences and walls and barriers to protect themselves from the masses of Mudo constantly seeking human flesh. When the living weren’t forever haunted.

Feed — M.T. Anderson

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

The Forest of Hands and Teeth — Carrie Ryan

My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there as nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.

Genesis — Bernard Beckett

Anax moved down the long corridor. The only sound was the gentle hiss of the air filter overhead. The lights were down low, as demanded by the new regulations. She remembered brighter days, but never spoke of them. It was the one of the Great Mistakes, thinking of brightness as a quality of the past.

Girl in the Arena — Lise Haines

The clerk asked for my autograph.

–Do it right across my face, he says.

Usually when we’re out in public everyone wants Allison’s autograph. My mother’s as famous as the men she’s married. OVer the years, she has signed stomachs, tip sheets, shoes, baby carriages, even a sandwich once, and of course thousands of arena souvenir booklets. but until recently, few have asked for my signature.

Gone — Michael Grant

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.

The Hunger Games — Suzanne Collins

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

Life as We Knew It — Susan Beth Pfeffer

Lisa is pregnant.

Dad called around 11 o’clock to let us know. only Mom had already taken Jonny to his baseball practice and of course Matt isn’t home from college yet, so I was alone to get the big news.

Little Brother — Cory Doctorow

I’m a senior at Cesar Chavez High in San Fransisco’s sunny Mission district, and that makes me one of the most surveilled people in the world. My name is Marcus Yallow, but back when this story starts, I was going by wIn5s0n. Pronounced “Winston.”

The Maze Runner — James Dashner

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

Skinned — Robin Wasserman

Lia Kahn is dead.

I am Lia Kahn.

Therefore–because this is a logic problem even a dimwitted child could solve–I am not dead.

Except here’s the thing: I’m not.

Uglies — Scott Westerfeld

The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

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2 Comments

  1. Nikki Mantyla / May 14 2010 8:48 am

    I’ve only read a few of those, so I’ll just comment on the ones I know. I think Feed‘s, Hunger Games‘s, and Maze Runner‘s first lines do a great job of immediately showing us that this is not our ordinary world: teens going to the moon for recreation, something called a “day of reaping,” and “began his new life standing up.” We know immediately that something has changed or is about to. We also get immediate tone: “turned out to completely suck,” the fact that these sisters share a bed suggests poverty and worry, “cold darkness and stale, dusty air.”

    The set I was least convinced by, even when I read the book, is Life As We Knew It. It didn’t feel like the right first lines to me. But my guess is that she wanted the first chapter to be the opposite of other dystopias: she wanted it to feel extremely normal. That’s definitely what sets that series apart to me. You feel the whole time like it could really happen.

  2. shalleemcarthur / May 14 2010 8:56 am

    I love the one from The Dead-Tossed Waves. There’s so much mystery packed in, and the reference to roller coasters is intriguing– why those, specifically? And of course, the immediate mention of people rising from the dead is an immediate grab! It introduces a whole fascinating, freaky world without confusion and with a lot of mystery right off the bat. Awesome first paragraph!

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