Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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Title: The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Series: n/a
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Source: from publisher for review via Edelweiss
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

     “I wondered what things became when you no longer needed them, and I wondered what the future would hold once we'd gotten past our personal tragedies and proven them ultimately survivable.”

The Beginning of Everything is, above all else, about personal tragedies, the frailty of first love, and surviving them both.  But it's also a tale of self discovery and self actualization.  And I was hooked from the very first page.  And if I hadn't been, page four would have done it:
     “What the news reports didn't say was how the kid's head sailed backward in its mouse-ear hat like some sort of grotesque helicopter, and how Toby Ellicott, on his twelfth birthday, caught the severed head and held onto it in shock for the duration of the ride.
     There's no graceful way to recover from something like that, no magic response to the "getting head" jokes that everyone threw in Toby's direction in the hallways of Westlake Middle School.”
The male narrative was done exceedingly well.  Ezra's voice sounds like that of a typical guy I went to school with.  He starts off as this broken boy who hasn't talked to his friends all summer because of his own personal tragedy.  Gone is the swagger and confidence of the tennis champ and prom king of the year before.  Ezra finds that although his friends still save a place for him in their lives, it is not his usual seat, and he's not sure he wants the one they're offering to replace it with.  When he finds himself in the company of an old friend and fellow personal tragedy survivor, he accepts that maybe his tragedy has taken his life in a new direction, and not necessarily a bad one.
     “We were still friendly enough and occasionally chatted online, but our friendship had somehow been decapitated that summer.  Like the kid who'd sat in front of us on that fateful roller coaster, there was no weight on my shoulders.
     Sorry.  That was horrible of me.”
And with the reemergence of Ezra's friendship with Toby, Ezra also finds comfort in Cassidy Thorpe, the new girl who doesn't seem to care what anyone else thinks of her.  Cassidy has already seen that Ezra is different, not like the group of jocks he was once a part of, and she continues to challenge him to see himself differently, to expand his horizons and not settle for the narrow confines he'd previously allowed for in his life. And with Cassidy's help, he does reach for more while also stretching his mind.
     “And you keep wanting to give me credit because you finally decided you weren't content with squeezing yourself into the narrow corridor of everyone's expectations, but you made that decision before we'd even met, back on the first day of school when you shot your mouth off in AP Euro.”
But I love that Cassidy reminds Ezra that he was already on this path when they met, though.  And that she doesn't take credit for Ezra's transformation, even when he insists that she's changed him.  Sure, some of the changes were in direct correlation with his relationship with Cassidy, but the accident had more to do with awakening his desire for more than anything else.  And when Ezra realized this at the end, his metamorphosis was complete.  He was no longer a tennis star, or a crippled ex-tennis star.  Ezra was simply more than he had been before.  He was a budding intellectual, with hopes and dreams that now took him far from the place he'd planned to call home for the foreseeable future.

Being inside Ezra's head during all of this was entirely amusing.  He's clever and whimsical and his internal thought process had me belly-laughing.  But my favorite interactions were those with Toby.  Such a good and honorable friend he was, the kind that you hope to have for all of your days. I must have highlighted half the book, such was the witty banter and clever dialogue between these two boys.  Even after everything they'd been through, the personal tragedies they'd overcome, the years between them, they still managed to regain the friendship they'd had as kids.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it.  The romance in this novel is very much in the forefront.  But I loved how it played out, how it wasn't all neat and tidy and perfect.  I did find the shocking revelation a tad predictable, all things considered, but even so, I didn't see that perfect ending coming.  As in, the most realistic and best possible ending I could have imagined for this story.  The personal growth was off the charts for Ezra, and I'm glad to see that that also carried over into his relationship with Cassidy.

Other things I liked:  the strong family presence in Ezra's life, the physicality of Ezra and Cassidy's relationship and how it was handled, the brilliant writing.  Things I disliked:  the stereo-typing -- the mean-girl cheerleader-type persona, the jock, the nerds, the girl who is different and unaffected and therefore better...even if some of these do hold up to a certain extent, the book might have been even stronger had a method other than stereotyping been employed to exaggerate Ezra's exit from his former life.

Overall, I found The Beginning of Everything -- aptly titled, I might add -- to be an engaging read.  Love, heartbreak, friendship, and a general sense of personal's got all the trappings of a coming-of-age novel, while also being extremely readable and relatable.  I'd recommend this novel for fans of John Green because it's witty and hilarious, but it also leaves you with all the feels.

“Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spent a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”

Rating:   photo 4-1.png 1/2

UK cover
old US cover & title
For those of you unawares, this book was previously titled Severed Heads, Broken Hearts.  The original cover is provided to the left for your viewing pleasure.  However, I think this new cover and title are more mainstream and likely to garner a larger audience, and the roller coaster does play a large role, so it is probably more fitting.  I read that the reason the title was changed was because it was thought that the original title sounded like a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel.

Not sure if these are actually from Robyn's tumblr, but I found them here and just had to share:

About the author:

Robyn Schneider is a writer, actor, and online personality who misspent her youth in a town coincidentally similar to Eastwood. Robyn is a graduate of Columbia University, where she studied creative writing, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where she studied medical ethics. She is also the author of the middle grade Knightley Academy books, written as Violet Haberdasher. She lives in Los Angeles, California, but also on the internet.

Find Robyn:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram | YouTube


  1. The old title was a little off putting. I think the new title and cover are really cute. I've heard amazing things about this. A great male narrative is usually enough to get me to read something. And I'm all good with the romance being the main plotline. Also always super happy when a book has a happy and yet realistic ending.

  2. Great review(: I love the cover for this!

  3. "Toby Ellicott, on his twelfth birthday, caught the severed head and held onto it in shock for the duration of the ride." AHHHH I UNDERSTAND THE OLD TITLE NOW. I thought it was really catchy - definitely didn't associate with a post-apoc or dystopian novel - but I was also really confused by it.

    "Ezra finds that although his friends still save a place for him in their lives, it is not his usual seat, and he's not sure he wants the one they're offering to replace it with." <-- I love how you wrote that.

    I've read a few reviews of this one, and I've heard a lot of the same: that Toby/Ezra interactions are just great, that Ezra has an authentic male POV, that the romance takes center stage. The family presence and writing sound awesome, though I'm not too keen on the stereotyping.

    But what I love most is how obvious it is you enjoyed this novel. Your review and all your quotes make that so clear :).

  4. I like the UK cover but I can see how the previous title might turn some people off. Personally I like the macabre and would pick it up because of that lol

  5. another book I am really excited for. I like the new cover and the new title better. Glad you liked it.

  6. You and I really read this one alike, Jen! I even said the same thing in my review: I was hooked from page one:) I loved the writing in this book--it reminded me so much of John Green's authentic style. I also like what you said about Cassidy not changing Ezra, that he already on the path to re-discovering who he really was. And TOBY! LOVE him so! Fantastic coming of age story--hope more people start discovering it, I think it's one of the better books I've read this year!

  7. I have not heard of this one yet. But is sounds pretty good. We were just discussing that lady who died on a roller coaster a while ago at work today. Funny I should click on this review. It's a sign! lol

    I'm definitely going to have to check this one out. :)


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