The Beginning of Everything: review

July 15, 2013 2013, 3.5 star books, contemporary, tonya 60 ★★★½

The Beginning of Everything: reviewThe Beginning of Everything by tonya
Published by Harper Collins on August 27, 2013
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
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?

divider vine cropped

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. 

Tonya sig - teal


60 Responses to “The Beginning of Everything: review”

  1. Kailia Sage

    I’m glad that the teenage boy voice was believable because that’s not always done well, especially male POVs. In all honestly, this book just sounded like an “okay” book for me and one I wouldn’t have minded not reading and the idea with Cassidy puts me off BUT I think I might give it a try now. Not only for the well written POV but also because Robin is pretty cool.

    The old title is SO MUCH BETTER than the new one! The new one is boring and unoriginal but Severed Hearts, Broken Hearts packs a punch. Ditto with the covers!

  2. ShyTownGirls

    The description of this book sounds a great deal like that of The Spectacular Now, just in basic premise. It’s interesting that you didn’t like Cassidy, because I think a lot of fictional girls fall victim to that Manic Pixie Dream girl issue of being a caricature versus being a real person. Thanks for the review!
    XO Shy Town Girls

  3. Lottie Eve

    A character who wears bow ties and quotes Doctor Who? I love Toby already <3 The premise sounds intriguing and I do love me some contemporary. I don't know what to think about Cassidy, though...

    Great review, Tonya :)

  4. Moni

    The new cover isn’t very nice. It may just be my aversion to all things yellow, but it’s not working for me. I actually really like the title, however. This sounds like an excellent book I may have to try out!!

  5. Becca

    I haven’t read this one yet, but I do like the old cover and title better for the same reasons you mentioned. I always seem to forget about this book since the change.

    • tonya

      I don’t think they’ve done a great job acknowledging / advertising the cover and title change. I hope it doesn’t hurt the book’s sales, because I do think it’s a fun book that a lot of people will really enjoy.

  6. Christina

    I agree about the writing and the authenticity of the voice. Schneider did such a great job with that. Cassidy was such a John Green girl, down to the mystery and the never really being attainable. She was the main weakness for me too. I never took a shine to her either.

    • tonya

      YES! The whole time I kept thinking she could have been written by John Green. She reminded me of Margo from Paper Towns.

  7. Melanie

    The old cover was certainly better and the title was more catchy. I think the AU title is still Severed Heads Broken Hearts.

    Ezra and Toby both seem likeable, worried about the female antagonist though.

    Fab review, Tonya! <33

    • tonya

      Yeah, I think they kept the original title and cover for the international release. I met the author this weekend and learned that they switched the title because people were assuming it was a dystopian rather than contemporary.

  8. Sunny Duvall

    Okay, first of all, I agree with you and Molli ^^ because I LOVED the old title and didn’t even realize that these two are the same book!

    Boo on predictability for the whole shoe dropping incident. However, this all sounds really enjoyable and I’m ECSTATIC that the teenage boy sounds like a teenage boy! I’ll be picking this one up for sure :)

    • tonya

      I hope it doesn’t hurt the book’s sales, because even though I had issues with Cassidy, I think it’s such a fun book!

      Ezra’s voice was fantastic, I think you’ll really love it. Keep an eye on the blog, we’ll be giving away a copy in a few days. :)

  9. Molli Moran

    I actually really liked the old title but NOT the old cover, because I feel like the new cover somehow encompasses the book better, but it wouldn’t work with the new title. I DO wish the HC marketing people would have made their choice before revealing the original cover and title, since so many people (I fear) aren’t going to realize the two are the same book/cover/title and overlook this one.

    That said, I do agree about Cassidy. This one really worked for me, and I loved everything about it that you did, Tonya! ESPECIALLY how authentic Ezra was, and TOBY and his DW love made me so happy.

    • tonya

      I agree, the new cover probably fits the story a bit better, but the old one is just so cute! I agree, I think there will be a lot of people who don’t realize it’s the same book. They haven’t really acknowledged the switch.

      I loved Toby so much! He was probably my favorite. I’m such a sucker for a good DW reference. ;)

  10. starryeyedjen

    I really wish they would have kept the original title and cover, too. Especially after doing that contest to design a cover for the book before the first cover was released. Glad to hear that the male POV is done right…can’t wait to get to this one!

    • tonya

      Oh, I didn’t realize they held a contest for the cover! That sucks. I actually met the author this weekend, and learned they switched the title because a lot of people thought it was a dystopian rather than contemporary.

  11. Jasprit

    Toby sounds like a fantastic character Tonya, anyone who quotes Dr. Who is an instant favourite! I didn’t know that this book had a different cover and title, I have to agree with you I much prefer the title it had before! Great review!

    • tonya

      Toby was probably my favorite, even though he was a secondary character. He definitely had me at Doctor Who, heh. ;)

  12. Lyn Kaye

    It sounds as if this book suffered from Manic Pixie from the sound of it, but the positives made this one sound like a book to watch for – great review!

    • tonya

      Yes, MPDG syndrome in full effect. But still a really fun book. We’ll be giving away a copy in a few days, so keep an eye out. :)

  13. Keertana

    I don’t like the idea of a character being more of a plot device than anything else. In fact, that type of circular resolution makes me want to run away, though the overwhelmingly positive reviews for this make me want to give it a shot. Either way, lovely review, Tonya!

    • tonya

      Thanks, Keertana! Though Cassidy’s story in general was disappointing, Ezra was a fantastic character and his growth throughout the story was really well done. I think you might still enjoy it despite some of those issues.

  14. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    YES to this review. I 100% agree with it. Loved Ezra’s voice and his again-BFF Toby and his friendships in general. Also yes to feeling off about Cassidy and everything that happens near the end, except that I agree that I love how the book ended. THAT was realistic. However, though I did like the ‘severed heads’ title, I actually very much prefer the new graphic. I didn’t like the romance forward focus of the first one, and I like that the new one is more appealing to all.

    • tonya

      You’re right about the new cover matching the story a bit better. I just think the other one is super cute. ;) And yes, I totally agree about the ending. Didn’t like the conclusion with Cassidy, but the way it all resolved felt very realistic.

  15. bebecald

    This sounds like an interesting book, but I agree-the original title of “Severed Heads, Broken Hearts” is way more memorable. I tend to enjoy books more when I really like the side characters better-only because it makes me feel like the main characters are able to make good choices. lol

    • tonya

      I ended up meeting the author this weekend, and learned that the title changed because people thought it sounded more like a dystopian than a contemporary YA. Weird!

      We’ll be giving away a copy in a few days, so keep your eyes peeled!

  16. Eunice

    I’d never heard of this book before until now and it seems like something that I would really like. The characters, especially the MC seems like he did a lot of growing up and character development in this story which is a big plus. And also I’m glad to hear the author did a good job in writing in male-pov. Thanks for the wonderful review, Tonya! ;)

    • tonya

      The male POV was awesome, and other than Cassidy’s character, the character development was really great. We’ll be giving away a copy in a few days, so keep an eye out!

  17. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    I absolutely agree with you 100%. Cassidy was one of those MPDGs (Manic Pixie Dream Girls) that never seem like fully formed characters to me. I also didn’t buy the ending — can’t say more without spoilers. But I did love the witty banter between the characters!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    • tonya

      Yes, the ending was a little too pat for me. Didn’t make much sense. But you’re right, the banter was great. Loved Toby so much!

  18. Amy

    Great review! I really am looking forward to reading this one. I liked the original title better, but I actually really like the new cover. It’s too bad that the romance was a bit iffy, but in general the book sounds amazing!!

    • tonya

      It was a really fun read, despite my issues! We’ll be giving away a copy in a few days, so keep an eye out for it. :)

  19. Shannelle C.

    The cover for Severed Heads looks more eye-catching, and that title. That title. Why get rid of it?

    Pity the love interest couldn’t really deliver. But I don’t know, my interest is piqued by what you said about the fact that the dialogue felt authentic. That sounds promising.

    • tonya

      I learned this weekend that the title was changed because it made a lot of people think it was a dystopian, rather than contemporary. *shrug* Still wished they’d kept it!

  20. A Canadian Girl

    Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is definitely a more memorable title.

    It’s nice that you liked the dialogue and thought that Ezra’s voice was authentic, Tonya, but it’s too bad that Cassidy felt more like a plot device than a character. I guess the romance suffered as well then. I may check this one out.

    • tonya

      I hope you do! Even though I wish more had been done with Cassidy’s character, it was still a fun read.

  21. Danielle

    Oh my gosh, that’s the same book as ‘Severed Heads, Broken Hearts’!? I had that on my 2013 wishlist and was wondering where it had gone … wow. They really went backwards with the final product, huh?

    Cassidy sounds like a Manic-Pixie-Dreamgirl and that grates. Hmmmmm, not so sure about picking this one up (though I am totally investigating this Floating Movie Theatre idea!)

    • tonya

      Yes! Apparently, that is now the UK title. Not sure why they switched the US one, but the world of publishing is very mysterious. ;)

      Cassidy is totally manic pixie dream girl, but Ezra’s voice was so strong, I was able to overlook it and enjoy the rest of the story despite her. Hope you give it a chance! it’s a fun read. :)

  22. Ariel Smith

    Nice review! I’ve never heard of this book before and it really surprised me that the narration was a teenage boy. Almost all the books I pick up have a female main character. I agree with you that the old title should have been kept. It’s a lot more unique which causes more interest in the reader. I might check this book out if I have time.

    • tonya

      I love when I can find a good male POV; they’re so rare. I hope you give this a chance at some point! :)

  23. Sarah Johnson

    Great review, Tonya! I haven’t gotten the chance to read this book yet. I saw a video of the author speaking about this book and it prompted me to want to read it. I agree about the title. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is just such a unique title, but I think I like this cover more. :D

    • tonya

      Thank you! I hope you get a chance to read it soon. :) The yellow color really pops, but there’s something a little whimsical about the SH,BH cover that I love. :)

  24. Christina (Christinareadsya)

    The authentic male teenage voice: Yay! Nothing bothers me more when, in order to prove the authenticity, something is added about how the guy views the other gender. Like: Wish she’d wear that tiny number again. I’m glad that Ezra is his own character, and that the dialogue and friendship shows this.

    Toby – I’m missing out on the Doctor Who reference, but the bow ties sound adorable.

    The floating movie theater – am I to take this literally? If so: hell yeah, I would’ve gone back in HS. Sounds awesome.

    Cassidy – Shame that she felt more like a plot device than a real character, especially given the important role she’s got in the book.

    The title – Yes. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts and the cover grabs my attention much more than the Beginning of Everything, despite that yellow color. Was it changed from hardcover to paperback, or was this originally an international title, or?

    • tonya

      It’s one of the best I’ve read. And you’re totally right; usually the male POV is full of T&A observations and cursing, but this was just refreshingly RIGHT. And honestly, what kept me reading despite the flaws that bothered me.

      I just looked into the title/cover change… looks like Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is the UK title.

  25. Karen

    This was a dnf for me. I did like the writing but Cassidy felt a little too manic pixie dream girl.

    • tonya

      I totally agree, but was able to look past it because I loved the other characters and the voice. Sorry it wasn’t for you. :(

    • tonya

      Yay! I hope you do. Despite some flaws, it was a really fun read and one of the best male POVs I’ve read.

      (And I just looked into the title/cover…apparently Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is the UK title. Hmmm.)

  26. Sana

    I loved the original title Severed Heads, Broken Hearts and the cover and I was disappointed when it got a complete make over. Still, I’d been looking forward to reading the book and your review makes me want to pick it up right now. Yay for awesome books =D

    • tonya

      Yay, I’m so glad! I’m going to have to see if I can find out why they made the switch. I’m guessing they thought the title might be too violent, but it’s far more memorable!

  27. Julie@My5monkeys

    I too agree with your review and I too wished that they kept the original title and book cover :) Yes agree about Cassidy and being under used in plot .

    • tonya

      I’m glad you agree with me! I seem to be the odd one out when looking at GR reviews (not uncommon). She could have been a great character, but ended up being so flat.

  28. Liviania

    Wait, this is Severed Heads, Broken Hearts? I remember seeing buzz about that. Yep, it’s far more memorable.

  29. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I really like the original title and cover — definitely more memorable. Every time I see the new cover, I think, “Oh, hey, that sounds cute! Why haven’t I heard of it?” But then I remember that I have…as the other title. Sounds like a good read, despite some flaws. Looking forward to it!

    • tonya

      I agree about the cover. I wonder why they changed it.

      It has a few flaws, but it was still a fun read, and one of the best male POVs I’ve read.