The rule is this: skip to page 99, read it, and if the writing or scene grabs you, chances are, it’s worth beginning. If not, toss it.
I think I’m too much of a purist to go around spoiling myself in that manner. Though if I start thinking about it too hard, it makes more sense that this rule is “69” rather than “99,” due to common story structure.
Anyway, I ran right out and proceeded to 99 all my books.
In Secret Society Girl, page 99 takes place during the first scene post-initiation, when Amy is meeting the other taps. It includes a list, as well as the introduction of Odile Dumas, a.k.a. Lil’ Demon, who is described thusly:
A slender, stunning woman with waist-length red hair joined our group and extended a graceful hand toward me. Now, this chick I knew. But of course, you all know everything about Odile Dumas as well. She’d been tabloid fodder since she was 15. Her matriculation to Eli had largely been viewed by all as an attempt to present herself as less Lindsay Lohan and more Natalie Portman. But, to the media’s shock, she’d taken to collegiate life with gusto and all but dropped out of public view. Odile hadn’t had an album or a movie out in three years, and word around campus was that she was smarter (and less slutty) than anyone had expected (or hoped).
“Little Demon,” she purred, “but if I end up pursuing that hip-hop career, I’ll change it to Lil’ Demon.” The name rolled off her tongue with such ease that we all knew at once — hip hop career or no — what we’d end up calling her.
Page 99 of Under the Rose is a confrontation scene:
“This is what we agreed on, Jen.” His voice was perfectly even, as if he were discussing the weather. “I fail to see how anything has changed. You were the one that told me–“
“Not here, please And not now. Seriously, it’s not right.”
“You promised me you would. You swore it. Were you lying? Were you lying to me?” And there was a hint of emotion in his voice, a carefully reined anger that slipped a bit on the “me.”
“No, of course not. It’s just so hard. So much harder than I thought it would be. I’m not sure I want to do it anymore.”
“I don’t understand. I love you, Jen. Don’t you know that? I trust you.”
“I know. I know you do.” Her voice broke on her words.
“And you love me… don’t you? Don’t you love me? If you love me, then why is it so hard to do what I want?”
Page 99 of Rites of Spring Break is a BIG OL’ SPOILER that I’m not touching with a ten foot pole, here. Sorry!
And, though this probably won’t be page 99 of the printed book, here’s the first paragraph of the page from Rampant:
Not again. I stood, frozen, as the unicorn barreled toward the girls. In my mind’s eye, I saw Grant’s face, purple and poisoned, but I could not will my feet to move. The scent of death filled my nostrils, blood roared in my ears. And yet, even through my fear, I could feel myself—my innate hunter instinct—gauging the distance between my body and the unicorn’s. The world slowed, just like the last time I’d chased her, just like the time I’d gone after the kirin. My thigh muscles tensed as if to spring. And yet, I didn’t move. I couldn’t make it in time. It was too late.