“What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?“
This is a a great question and a hard one to actually answer... so I think I'll use examples.
Books where I was immediately sucked in:
Paper Towns - The opening is about the main character finding a dead guy in the park (among other things... the opening is about quite a lot more, too), but his focus (as it is the whole book) is on the girl who is with him. If we're being honest, we should care about the dead guy, but most of us are selfish and care about the people we know instead of the people we don't (whether alive or dead). It's not the sort of thing you admit, but this character does which makes him both interesting and easy to relate to. Plus, I wanted to know why this girl mattered and who she really was. (Also... it's John Green and his voice is captivating. All of the books I have read by him have sucked me in from the beginning.)
Revolution - The emotional intensity of this book is amazing. I cried within the first few pages, because the main character was alive and her pain so real that I could feel it myself.
Heist Society/Gallagher Girls - They're different series, but I was sucked in to both for the same reason. The main characters are girls that are easy to relate to. They are smart and cautious and have secrets... but they are in these fantastic worlds. One is a thief, one is a spy, but still, from the very first pages I know that if they had been born to a different family, they could have been just like me, or if I was born into different circumstances, I could be just like them.
Books where I was immediately turned off:
The Lost Symbol - The whole thing sounded pretentious from the first word and I couldn't relate to Robert Langdon as a human being the way I could in both Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code.
Halo - It was immediately clear that the character seemed naive and pure... the few faults she had seemed more like virtues. I just couldn't relate to her, because she is an impossible human being... unable to exist outside of the pages of her book.
I guess that actually gave me the insight I needed... I'm hooked into a book when I immediately feel emotionally connected to the character enough to care that something is about to happen in their life (or else why would I be reading a book about them?), when they seem so real that it comes as a surprise that I'm reading fiction.