“Julian knew the exact price of everyone’s pants in this nightclub. His own pants were a shabby APO Jeans knockoff ($17), purchased in a muddy alley from a toothless Chinese man, that Julian had hand-stitched with needle and thread ($2) until they’d pass casual inspection.
“On any other night, Julian would feel like a fraud in this glamorous world of $275 jackets and $180 jeans—fake it ’til you make it—but he’d smile like he was a rich businessman’s kid, not the son of an $18,000-a-year dry cleaner who was dealing coke to pay his tuition ($38,439 per semester). Any other night, he’d be discretely swapping out his water ($6 a bottle, plus a splashy-generous tip) with a smuggled flask of Popov vodka ($16.99 per gallon), drinking to muffle this horrid idea that maybe—just maybe—being rich was something in the blood, and you could never ever buy success no matter how many deals you cut.
“But tonight, he’d snorted Flex. And Julian saw numbers everywhere.”
–Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
I love this opening. I love this book, in part because almost every chapter has such a catchy opening. Sure, I can love a book even if it has a shitty opener, but when the opener is good, when I am allowed to get excited about a thing from the very first word on the very first page? That’s a special kind of magic. One that Steinmetz’s debut novel Flex has in buckets.
It’s an effective opener for two reasons: Every sentence does a lot of work and every sentence does that work in a unique and interesting way. We don’t have to be told what kind of night club this is or what kind of people are there directly because we are given that information through Julian’s hyper-awareness of price. Through that one little detail—a detail never more than three characters long, excepting the price of his tuition —we learn what kind of person Julian is, what his family is like, what his life is like, what kind of club this is, what kind of people are in it, and we have a general sense of this world. One little detail, repeated for various items, and we are already firmly anchored in the story, and because it is such a small detail, we can receive a ton of information without any of it bogging down the tempo of the text. Here fucking here.
The last sentence, which hints at the plot to follow and had me eagerly awaiting more information, is just icing on a very delicious cake.
Look for my review of the entire thing sometime next week (preview: I loved it, though I think I liked the villain more than I was supposed to). Flex comes out on March 3, 2015, but you can preorder it on Book Depository.