Monday, July 29, 2013

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of Everything
by Robyn Schneider
Read: May 20, 2013
Published: August 27, 2013 by Katherine Tegen
Source: Around the World Arc Tours
Category: Contemporary YA, male POV

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. (From Goodreads)

Last year Ezra Faulkner had everything he thought he wanted. He was captain of the tennis team, president of his junior class and dating a popular cheerleader. Then in one night, Ezra caught his girlfriend cheating and got hit by a car that shattered both his knee and his athletic career. Now he's feeling lost and struggling just to make it up the stairs to his second floor classes. He's also realizing that his friends weren't who they thought they were, and maybe neither is he. 

This is the moment when Cassidy Thorpe enters Ezra's life. She is a new student who seems to be everything that Ezra's not. She wears vintage clothes, prefers bicycles to status cars and doesn't appear to care what anyone else thinks about her. But she is also intelligent and vibrant, and challenges Ezra to think outside the narrow world that he's created for himself. Cassidy is a master debater (this book loves that joke), and friends with the debate team crowd made up of gamers, hipsters and other intellects. 

Toby Ellicott is also part of that group. He was Ezra's best friend in elementary school and the source of the 'severed heads' part of the original title. Toby went in a different direction when Ezra became the popular jock, but he re-enters Ezra's life at this time too. Toby is one of my favorite characters in this book. He is the best kind of friend, and his relationship with Ezra is one of my favorite parts of this story. 

The Beginning of Everything is a book about self-discovery and realizing that life is so much bigger than your high school. It's figuring out who you want to be and how you define yourself. One of the most compelling parts of this novel for me, was how my perception of some of the characters shifted by the end, and how the author was able to successfully demonstrate the point of her book through my understanding of them. 

Although I've seen some of these themes and plot developments before, The Beginning of Everything shifts its focus in a way that made the book feel fresh and engaging. It is not just a romance, but friendships, knowing who you are and realizing that that your'e the only person who can change how others see you - and you see yourself. While I had some issues with a few of the things that happen near the end, I absolutely love the conclusion of this story and was surprised how well I personally connected to it. 

Where this story struggled for me, was in the stereotyping of jocks. All of Ezra's old friends are athletes, and they are portrayed as selfish and shallow, while his ex-girlfriend is a mean girl in cheerleading clothes. While I appreciate the way that this makes Ezra's transformation after the accident more dramatic, the story would have been more complex if they had been portrayed with a little less typically. I also had trouble with some of Cassidy's decisions, although I do think she was well written as a contrast to Ezra.

However, I really liked being inside of Ezra's head. He was honest and amusing. And even when he was being an idiot, I didn't think he was annoying, in fact it just made him more endearing. I loved having a front seat to his very personal journey through this book. 

A note on the cover: The arc that I read was called Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, and had this cover. While I think both are compelling, I actually prefer the new cover better. I think the first "look" puts the focus solely on the romance, where it is better placed on Ezra's personal growth. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


  1. I had seen both of these covers. Didn't really bothered to read the blurb and didn't concider myself interested. GIRLLLL!!! You 100% sold me. I love the sound of this. Yeah, I'm so over these stereotypes of popular kids being mean etc. I'm reading Everbound atm and Jack Caputo is anything but mean and yes, there are mean athletes and cheerleaders out there, but not all of us popular kids are mean as hell. We don't have US kind of popular crowd, but we still had/have more popular kids in our schools here in Estonia whom are more known among different crowds than the others and I was one of them. Yes, it definitely depends on which side of the sword you're standing, but it's a two way street and there are mean people among 'unpopular' kids as well. Oh, it's a topic I could talk about for days and days since I've seen this stereotype thing a lot lately. Anyhow, I love everything else you said about this book. I'm all about friendships and any other form of re-connecting, growing to love etc type of stories and I love how this is a self-discovery story. Thanks for reviewing it. I can't wait to give it a try myself:)

  2. Ok. So this won't surprise you one bit but when this book was circulating with the first cover and title, I was not interested at all. It didn't interest me, I didn't read the summary all the way through, and I wasn't planning on reading it - and honestly Lauren that is a shame. I read one early review of the book that wasn't really that positive and since then, the book has flown off of my radar. I do like the newer cover and title better, but I still (until now) haven't read anything about the book, including the summary, and wasn't interested in it at all. That just goes to show you how important marketing can be because I just DIDN'T CARE FOR IT. I realize that I'm not every person, but I am like an old person - set in my ways, ya know?

    Anyway, this sounds much better now that I've read your review and now that I've read that you liked it. I can't determine if it is a book that I would like and I think that is mainly still my brain trying to push it out because I'm still superimposing the ugly cover and old title on top of the new. What do you think?

  3. Beautiful review as usual Lauren! Aside from the stereotypical dumb jocks and mean girl cheerleaders, this book sounds awesome. I have to confess to reading the end of the copy I got at BEA and, being the ridiculous person that I am, deciding not to read it based on the ending. I KNOW! I don't deal well with bittersweet endings however well they suit the story, I just crave that HEA you know? Still, both you and Danny both really seemed to love this one so I'm thinking maybe I need to reconsider. *sigh* The two of you are just too convincing!

  4. Yay, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one because I'm really looking forward to it. I feel like most books fall back on stereotyping typical cliques in high school, which is a shame, but I've grown used to seeing it in YA so I don't think that should bother me too much. Lovely review, Lauren - I can't wait to read this myself!

  5. Oh, the stereotyping would be a major turn off for me too, especially since the book is supposed to be a realistic contemporary. I like the sound of the other lessons this novel has though, so I will be checking this one out. I agree about the cover and title change, I'm not sure I would pick up a book like that.

    Alise @ Readers in Wonderland

  6. You know how much I loved this book when I read it a few months back--Schneider's writing is awesome, and as I said in my review, she reminds me so much of one of my favorite authors, John Green. It is a shame that more people don know about this one because I do think Robin Schneider is incredibly talented as a writer. Hoping once this releases, word will get out:)

    I loved being in Ezra's head too. Such a likable, authentic protagonist, I really got wrapped up in his story. And Toby!! One of my fave secondary characters ever:) I want a book with just Toby!

    Super review!

  7. The title change bothers me a bit, to be honest. Maybe the original image focuses more on romance, but this new title is so generic. It's totally something I wouldn't give a second glance at in a bookstore, to be honest. But then I'm not sure whether this really is my type of story. I do love transformational stories, and I can see why others would really enjoy this story, but I'm not sure it's a story that really interests me. I'm glad that you found mostly good things to love about this book yourself, Lauren!


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