Published by Harper Collins on August 27, 2013
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Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything is a witty and heart-wrenching teen novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.
Varsity Tennis captain Ezra Faulkner was supposed to be homecoming king, but that was before—before his girlfriend cheated on him, before a car accident shattered his leg, and before he fell in love with unpredictable new girl Cassidy Thorpe.
As Kirkus said in a starred review, "Schneider takes familiar stereotypes and infuses them with plenty of depth. Here are teens who could easily trade barbs and double entendres with the characters that fill John Green's novels."
Funny, smart, and including everything from flash mobs to blanket forts to a poodle who just might be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby, The Beginning of Everything is a refreshing contemporary twist on the classic coming of age novel—a heart-wrenching story about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
“Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them… That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary–a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.”
This is the first paragraph of Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything, and basically the entirety of the story.
Ezra Faulkner was the golden boy of his high school. He was the star of their tennis team. The Junior Class President, and dating the most popular girl in school. And he got there, somehow, because of “a bad case of tragedy” Toby, his former best friend, came down with in seventh grade.
When Ezra experiences his own tragedy–a car accident that shatters not only his knee, but his place in the world–he begins to realize that though he had everything, it was nothing he actually wanted. Without the role of popularity that had been thrust upon him, and the expectations that came with it, he begins to learn not only who he really is, but what he actually wants.
He reunites with Toby, and meets a girl so startlingly different from everyone he knows, he can’t help but fall for her. Cassidy pushes him to be different, to see the world from a different perspective, and to break from the mold that has been cast around him.
But there’s a sadness that surrounds her, and a wall around her he can never seem to scale. Will falling for Cassidy be yet another tragic lesson, or the beginning of everything?
Things I Liked:
The story is told in first person, from Ezra’s point of view, and the seventeen year old boy voice is absolutely spot on. Schneider did an excellent job of writing an authentic teenage guy; never once did I pause and ask myself if a guy would really say/do something like that, which happens more often than not when reading YA.
Not only was Ezra’s voice awesome, but the dynamics between the friends was perfect as well. Schneider really excels at dialogue, and I found myself laughing out loud more times than I can count.
Toby. He may have been my favorite character, even above Ezra. I mean. He wears bow ties and quotes Doctor Who, for god’s sake.
The setting was basically my home town, and I got giddy more than once when a landmark was mentioned.
The Floating Movie Theater. Is that a real thing? I would have been totally into that in high school. (And by high school, I obviously mean still.)
The way it ended. (Which is all I’ll say in order to keep this spoiler-free.)
What Could Have Been Improved:
Cassidy. Though I really wanted to like her, I never saw her as a real person. She was more caricature than character. Ethereal, eccentric, and talking in mostly metaphorical circles, she never seemed fully formed to me. I was always waiting for the point of her to present itself, for the other shoe to drop.
And when the shoe dropped? It was at once completely predictable, and completely unbelievable.
Nothing about it really made sense, as though the entire scenario was concocted just to tie everything together neatly. The story didn’t need that kind of circular resolution, and it only served to reinforce my feeling that Cassidy was less character, and more plot device.
This has nothing to do with the book itself, but I do wish they’d kept the original title and cover. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a much more memorable title (I kept forgetting The Beginning of After), and I think the old cover is much cuter.
That being said, The Beginning of Everything was a fun read with surprising depth, and the perfect way to spend a breezy summer afternoon.
This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.