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