Sunday, July 21, 2013
Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Release date: August 27th, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Rating: Funny, punny, and full of heart (and pop culture references galore!). Good for fans of hyper-intelligent teens (very John Green-esque) and perfect boy POVs.
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.
The cover: What gorgeous colors! I love the contrast of the blue font against the yellow and orange roller coaster. Also, I chuckle every time I see the coaster, because poor Toby.
The story: The Beginning of Everything has been on my radar ever since I heard the original title, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. And while I feel that title better captures the irreverence and dark humor of the novel, nearly every other aspect of this book just made my soul happy. The writing, the characters, the dialogue, the plot-- I just couldn't get enough of Ezra and his friends.
The novel is told in first person from the point of view of Ezra, who has now got to be one of my favorite teenage boy narrators ever. His voice is so authentic and powerful. Ezra used to be the golden boy in high school, tennis star, boyfriend of the prettiest cheerleader. But everything changes after a tragic car accident takes out his knee. Now he walks with a cane, can never play tennis again, and has no idea what the future holds. But luckily for Ezra (and for us), he quickly falls in with his old best friend, Toby, and his troupe of friends from the debate team. Who are completely HILARIOUS. Seriously, I want to be best friends with these people. They are sharp and witty. They quip, they reference things, they tease. They are fictional characters after my own referencing heart. I laughed through so much of this book.
I love when authors are able to be humorous and heartfelt all at once.Mixing levity with poignancy only makes the more moving aspects more moving, in my opinion. I felt Ezra's pain and isolation. I SOBBED at the end when a thing I can't tell you about happened. And I felt him fall in love with mystery new girl Cassidy Thorpe, even though she's the only aspect of the novel I had even the slightest quibble with.
Like Christina pointed out in her review, Cassidy is a bit of a manic pixie dream girl. She's just transferred to Ezra's SoCal high school from a private school in San Francisco. Nobody knows why she quit the world of debate (in which she was supposedly a superstar); in fact, no one knows anything about her. She and Ezra soon bond, and he comes to see that she's the quippiest of the bunch and has a lot of interests and philosophies. She's dynamic and brilliant. She really brings out the best in Ezra, which was wonderful to read about. But my feelings towards her really soured at one point. She's needlessly cruel to Ezra, and I don't think the final revelation of her secret really excuses her. But in a way, that's the point. This book takes a very realistic look at love and dreams and relationships. Cassidy is totally worth falling in love with, but she's not perfect, and I liked that.
Toby, on the other hand, is aces. He used to be best friends with Ezra, until a fateful day at Disneyland that makes the Severed Heads part of the original title make sense. Toby is fiercely intelligent, a confident nerd, and a good guy. He holds no grudge against Ezra for drifting to the popular table, and is totally willing to become friends with him again in Ezra's hour of need. I kind of want to be Toby when I grow up. Also, he is hilarious when he is drunk.
The book centers on Ezra's belief that life is born from tragedy; that until your own personal tragedy happens, you haven't really become yourself yet. That thread is carried through the novel so beautifully, and at the end, so many different personal tragedies get tangled up, particularly between Cassidy and Ezra. Ezra's old life is killed the night of his accident, and while it is tragic for him to lose every hope and dream and friend he had, it's also a new beginning. He's able to find better friends and new interests. He can finally admit that he's smart. He can have witty, nerdy conversations with people, to my everlasting delight (seriously, Ezra, marry me and make Doctor Who and The Great Gatsby references and puns with me all the livelong days. PUN AWAY WITH ME, EZRA).
If you're a fan of John Green and intelligent narrators, you HAVE to pick up this book when it comes out at the end of August. It's for your own good. Really.