Review: The Beginning of Everything

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Beginning of EverythingThe Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Published by Katherine Tegen on August 27, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 335
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central

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.

First Sentence: “Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at stoplights could be only moments away from disaster.”

Robyn Schneider’s novel underwent a title change from Severed Heads, Broken Hearts to The Beginning of Everything. Both titles I think are fitting for the story within, though I must say I feel a certain affection for the original, which conveys both the humor and the darkness of Schneider’s witty, brilliant debut.

Ezra Faulkner theorizes that no one’s life really begins until they go through a personal tragedy. This may seem an odd sort of belief, but it makes sense. Tragedy has a way of putting things in perspective. The loss of a family member, of mobility, or of social standing has a way of forcing a person to reevaluate life and decide what is really important. Realizing how tenuous and random life can be, it’s crucial to spend what life you have being who you really are and with the people who really get you.

Ezra and Toby were best friends until they were fourteen. That friendship came to a halt after a tourist stood up in the row in front of them on a roller coaster at Disney, the tourist’s severed head landing in Toby’s arms for the rest of the ride. For the rest of high school, Toby will be that kid with the severed head. Meanwhile, Ezra grew up well, attractive and athletic, and became friends with the popular kids. He partied, dated hot girls, and planned to get a college scholarship for tennis. Then, at a party one night, a driver hit his car, leaving him crippled.

As school starts up for his senior year, the former Homecoming King doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere. He walks with a cane, his girlfriend has hooked up with his former best friend, and his plans for the future are shot. In his life’s nadir, he finds a sort of freedom, though. He can now admit to being intelligent and nerdy, rediscover his friendship with Toby, and cultivate a spot with some of the school’s nerds. Tragedy serves as a bridge to help him realize how unsatisfying his life up to then truly was.

Schneider’s writing is fantastic. First of all, she completely captures an authentic male voice. Ezra never read like a girl to me, but neither was his narrative over the top in an effort to sell his maleness. Secondly, Schneider peppers the narrative with literary references, which, admittedly, might be alienating to some teen readers, but that I loved. Finally, there are the puns. If you do not appreciate finely tuned wordplay, you might find The Beginning of Everything pun-ishing. However, if you deem puns fine humor, you may well laugh your head off (don’t worry; Toby will catch it for you).

The romance in The Beginning of Everything falls a bit into manicpixiedreamgirl territory, but it works. Ezra is taken with Cassidy immediately, with her mystery, her intelligence, and her vibrancy. She appreciates his puns and can give them back. They have great chemistry, but she always keeps her walls way way up. Why this worked for me is that Ezra falls in love with her, but in a totally high school first love sort of way, and not in a true love forever sort of way. Also, there’s a realization of how little she actually was the perfect girl of his dreams.

The only aspect of the book that left me wanting was the ending. The climax that leads to the spilling of Cassidy’s secrets was unexpected, despite the foreshadowing that lead up to it. That scene did not rub me the right way, and just felt a bit out of place in the novel. Plus, Cassidy’s sudden opening up didn’t seem fitting with what went down either. Without explaining what happened, it’s hard to put this clearly, but I found what happened a bit puzzling and melodramatic.

Robyn Schneider’s novel is highly intelligent and full of black humor. Fans of John Green, particularly Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, will most definitely want to read The Beginning of Everything.

Favorite Quotes:

“‘I’d call them master debaters, but clearly you aren’t mature enough to handle that, Mister Smirkyface.'”

“‘Why do they even call it that, “saving yourself”? Like we need to be rescued from sex? It’s not like virgins spend their whole lives engaged in the sacred ceremony of “being saved” from intercourse.'”

“‘You act like that day at Disneyland was my big tragedy, but you’re the one who lost your best friend. You’re the one who started eating lunch with the popular jocks and forgot how to be awesome because you were too busy being cool.'”

“‘Life is the tragedy,’ she said bitterly. ‘You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn’t with a goddamn wedding.'”

18 responses to “Review: The Beginning of Everything”

  1. tonya says:

    This was a fantastic review; you said everything I tried to say but couldn’t articulate.

    Love your review format!

  2. Amy says:

    Fabulous review!! I will be getting to this one soon. I am glad that the male voice was done well and not overdone. And I’m super looking forward to the humor of it. I’m glad that the new title fits the content well. I still do like the original title better, but I like the new cover more I think.

  3. I’ve got this one but haven’t read it yet. I was a little iffy about it, but I thought if I liked it, I might have the courage to actually pick up a John Green book. 😉

  4. Dana says:

    I’ve been mixed about reading this one. I’m not sure that I’ll particularly like it but a couple of favorite bookish people have enjoyed it quite a bit. Decisions, decisions.

    I really like the first title better too.

  5. GillyB says:

    I looooooooooved this book. Ezra is a brilliant narrator, and while I wasn’t COMPLETELY taken with Cassidy (she is a bit manicpixiedreamgirl), I loved their romance. But most of all, PUNS! PUNS AND REFERENCES AND WIT. I just want to hang out with all these people and try to out-wit them. And I prefer the original title myself. I keep forgetting this one, even though I loved the book so.

    • Christina says:

      PUNS ARE WINNING OBVIOUSLY. Ha, my brain isn’t always that good on the fly, so they would probably defeat me. However, they’re written which does give them an edge on pithiness.

  6. Wow, this story sounds absolutely breath-taking. I’m intrigued by the idea that it features a lot of dark humour as that’s something that I’ve always enjoyed both in books and in films. I’ll definitely be pre-ordering this one. Fantastic review, Christina! 🙂

  7. Molli Moran says:

    Perfect review, Christina! I really connected with this one so much more than I ever thought I would. Ezra was a fantastic character, self-aware, and I adored his growth. I loved that he read like a REAL guy, but not like the author was trying too hard. That was the first thing I fell in love with – Ezra, then the writing, the humor, the twists, and the sense that Ezra/Cassidy weren’t “be all/end all,” and the author didn’t impress to us that they HAD to be.

    Gah. Now I want to read this one all over again.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • Christina says:

      It’s awful when they really don’t read like their gender. I don’t think I’m overly picky on that really, but sometimes it just feels off. I mean, I think men can be sensitive and women very non-emotional, but there are just some thought patterns that don’t seem to make sense. But yes, I agree with all of that. 🙂

  8. Pabkins says:

    This is one of the very few contemporaries I want to read this year! I’m so glad you liked it. With contemps usually if the bulk of the people I trust don’t rate it highly it always makes me waver – probably because I don’t read but a super small amount of them. It is so important to have an authentic male voice when written by a female author.

  9. Judith says:

    Such a great review! Of course, the John Green reference made me want to pick this up immediately, but I also really like the sound of it. It sounds like the kind of contemporary I would absolutely love. (And it totally does sound like a John Green book, btw.) AND PUNS. I LOVE PUNS. *adds to tbr*

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