Running Into . . . Or Away From . . . Trouble

513iyxQxa-L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I like an opening that throws me into the action and won’t let me stop reading. Angelfall ( Penryn & The End of Days #1) by Susan Ee did that and so much more. All in about two hundred words.

 

Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious. Outside our condo window, the sky flames like a bruised mango in vivid orange, red and purple. The clouds ignite with sunset colors, and I’m almost scared those of us caught below will catch on fire too.

With the dying warmth on my face, I try not to think about anything other than keeping my hands from trembling as I methodically zip up my backpack.

I pull on my favorite boots. They used to be my favorites because I once got a compliment from Misty Johnson about the look of the leather strips laddering down the sides. She is – was – a cheerleader and known for her fashion taste, so I figured these boots were my token fashion statement even though they’re made by a hiking boot company for serious wear. Now they’re my favorites because the strips make for a perfect knife holder.

I also slip sharpened steak knives into Paige’s wheelchair pocket. I hesitate before putting one into Mom’s shopping cart in the living room, but I do it anyway.  I slip it in between a stack of Bibles and a pile of empty soda bottles. I shift some clothes over it when she’s not looking hoping she’ll never have to know it’s there.

 

How did this opening impact me?   It gave me a strong sense of a kick-ass heroine who has just survived an attack of some kind. She’s looking out a condo window, so I know I’m not reading historical fiction; it’s present day or maybe the near future. And while she’s noticing the colors out the window – the sky flames like a bruised mango in vivid orange, red and purple – she’s also worried. I’m almost scared those of us caught below will catch on fire too.

In case there’s any doubt, the fourth sentence seals the deal:  With the dying warmth on my face, I try not to think about anything other than keeping my hands from trembling as I methodically zip up my backpack.

I’m immediately caught up in her fear, the beauty of the sunset juxtaposed with a violent attack, and the sense that she’s going somewhere. Methodically. Clearly she has a plan.  The setting is hinted at, the tone of the story is compelling, questions are raised: Who is this person? What’s going on? Is she still in danger?

Paragraphs three and four confirm that and more:  I pull on my favorite boots . . . my favorites because the strips make for a perfect knife holder. I also slip sharpened steak knives into Paige’s wheelchair pocket. I hesitate before putting one into Mom’s shopping cart in the living room, but I do it anyway.  I slip it in between a stack of Bibles . . .

She – her name is Penryn – is a sister and a daughter. More importantly, she’s a protector. Not only is her goal to physically protect her family – the knives tell us that – but her desire to shield her mother from discomfort and fear illustrates her desire to protect them emotionally too.

She’s brave, she’s take charge and she’s protective.   She has a sister in a wheelchair; she’s hiding knives between stacks of bibles. What is going on? What will happen next? Of course I read on. I couldn’t stop.

And I wasn’t the only one. A few years back, Angelfall was one of seven finalists for the Cybils Award for the Year’s Best Fantasy & Science Fiction for young adults. That’s out of 1289 nominated books.   Not only did Susan Ee craft a compelling opening, she also wrote a page-turner of a book where street gangs rule the day and fear and superstition rule the night. And Penryn herself makes a deal with an enemy angel.

The deal for the reader? It’s an excellent story. And there are sequels . . .

 

 

 

 

Article written by

By the time she hit Grade Four, Laura Tobias knew she wanted to be a writer. So did the teachers. It was the persistent daydreaming and invisible friends that tipped them off. Since Laura grew up knowing no writers – and consequently didn’t know how to be one – she became a journalist instead. The trouble is, journalists are expected to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But making stuff up is way more fun. So Laura traded one notebook for another and today she writes romance and women’s fiction. She lives on Vancouver Island with a pair of Shetland sheepdogs, her high school sweetheart (Mr. Petrol Head) and her son (Teen Freud). She’s also the award-winning author of 15 books for teens and children writing as Laura Langston: www.lauralangston.com Also find her at www.lauratobias.com and occasionally at twitter.com/Laura_Tobias/

One Response

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  1. EC Sheedy
    EC Sheedy at | | Reply

    I love revisiting openings to books that I read and loved. Angelfall is definitely on that list. And Susan Ee’s opening? Amazing. I’d forgotten–until this reminder–how brilliant it really was.

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