Page 99 Test
Let’s see if page 99 of one of my favorite books does the job of representing what the book’s all about…
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Excerpts from the 99th page…
“He found that he was often angry, now: irrationally angry at his groupmates, that they were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on.”
“He put his hands on Asher’s shoulders, and concentrated on the red of the petals, trying to hold it as long as he could, and trying at the same time to transmit the awareness of red to his friend.”
“One evening he came home from his training weighted with new knowledge. The Giver had chosen a startling and disturbing memory that day.”
If you haven’t read The Giver, (and I highly suggest that you do) it’s a YA/middle grade novel about a futuristic community without color, pain, or disorder of any kind. One person in the community is chosen to hold the collective memories of the past – memories that are both pleasurable and painful. Twelve-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the next keeper of these memories and as he receives them from the Giver, Jonas’s innocence slowly erodes as he realizes that a life of safety and security within the community is not a real or fulfilling life at all.
I’d say these lines from page 99 definitely represent the main conflict of the book – Jonas’s realization that the memories he receives are causing a rift between his community and himself.
Page 69 Test
Here’s another of my favorite books, Needful Things by Stephen King.
Excerpts from the 69th page…
“…Wilma Jerzyck called her up one night and told her that if Nettie didn’t shut the dog up, she’d come over and cut his throat?”
“Nettie’s got problems, all right,” Polly said, “but her reaction to Mr. Gaunt was nothing short of amazing. It really was awfully sweet.”
Needful Things is another King novel taking place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. Charming Leland Gaunt sets up shop in the small town, but his shop is like no other – it’s got literally anything you could ever want, but for a hefty price. Mr. Gaunt makes deals with the citizens of Castle Rock, plays them against each other, stirs up dormant animosity between them, and creates chaos and mayhem in the town.
My paperback copy of the book is an enormous 736 pages, but the 69th page still manages to portray the spirit of the book – how Mr. Gaunt easily charms the citizens of the town, then sets them against their worst enemies and fears.
The book’s length might be a problem when trying to determine whether or not to read/buy the book based on just page 99 or 69. My page 99 from The Giver was more than halfway through the book, while page 69 from Needful Things wasn’t even a quarter of the way through. (Even page 99 wouldn’t be a quarter of the way through!)
Still, if a writer is really good, he or she will be able to weave the book’s central conflict throughout each page, making every page an accurate representation of the rest of the book.