August 26, 2013

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Title: The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Release Date: August 27th, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Page Count:
Source: ARC from BEA
Rating: A stunningly nerdy book - maybe even too nerdy?
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Ezra's believes that people there's a point in everyone's life when something really bad happens and, whatever that thing is, it changes the person. For Exra's childhood best friend, that point was when he caught a decapitated head on his 12th birthday. For Ezra it was the night his girlfriend cheats on him at a party and a car blindsids him - an accident that destroys his knee and basically nullifies his status as jock/golden boy extraordinaire. So Ezra falls back to being friends with Toby, gets into a relationship with the new girl, Cassidy, joins the debate team and a whole host of other things Gold Boy Ezra would never do.

Let's break this down:

I think the only thing I didn't like about this book was how polished it felt. Like, all of the banter and the nerd references were a lot. I don't think I got every joke, which felt uncomfortable because, like, I believe that teens can be that smart but perhaps that was overkill. It was actually kind of overkill and made the book lose some of it's weight for me. I also felt like the intended (teen) audience might not understand all of the references, so that doesn't work so well for me either.

The rest of this book is really great, though.

I liked The Great Gatsby theme that an all the way through the book. I really liked that Cooper talked like Gatsby in Ezra's head. It was quirky and pretty hilarious throughout. That whole theme throughout the book was actually really well done. I thought it worked perfect - although I haven't read The Great Gatsy since high school. But this book kind of made me want to re-read it.

And then I liked all of the characters. A lot. Even Charlotte. Her brain makes sense, I guess. So do the brains of everyone else in the popular crowd. Except the whole not visiting Ezra in the hospital. I felt like that was maybe kind of a stretch, but a stretch, not completely impossible.

As for everyone outside of the popular crowd, everyone in Toby's group made me so happy I could burst. Like, I wish there'd been more kids like that in my class in high school. As I said before, I think they're maybe a little too intellectual and their jokes a little too perfect and/or obscure, but on a whole they really entertained. And they're really clever. The floating movie theater? Yeah. That's cool. Really, really cool. 

Then of course there's Ezra. What's interesting in all of this isn't that the accident knocked Ezra down a peg (if we're talking about the popularity totem pole). It's almost like Ezra took himself down a peg. There's even a point in the book when someone tells Ezra that he's got this whole brooding look to him that everyone thinks is so hot. The boy hadn't even realized that he was removing himself from his friend situation and not the other way around. Sure, his friends were insensitive idiots who invited him rafting or whatever, but it really wasn't just that. I think the accident was what Ezra needed to realize he wasn't happy where he was. 

There's also Cassidy. I suppose I should mention her. Her character was kind of confusing throughout, but I found her to be witty, spontaneous, sweet and honest throughout (until she wasn't, but I kind of see why that happened). Her character was important to Ezra - not because she changed him, since she didn't really - but because she encouraged that change. She also demonstrated that just because you think someone is the perfect person for you, sometimes they're not and that's okay. Which I think is a really important message in YA. 

Oh, and I saw that twist at the end coming. I wasn't clear on the details for a little bit, but the whole thing really made sense.

All in all, this book was kind of philosophical. The point of the book was not to get the characters from Point A to Point B. It's more about the journey. How did Ezra get from Point A to Point B and what did he learn along the way? And this whole philosophical journey? Well, it was one I'm glad I didn't miss. 

The long and short of it?

Plot: There's a lot of really clever things going on here. Some of it a little TOO clever, or perhaps too many clever things all in one, but still really, really good.
World Building: The way this story was told, with Ezra narrating from the future, was a nice touch. Although, the bit at the end fell a little flat for me.
Character Development: I really enjoyed Ezra's journey. It kind of made me wonder about the jocks I went to school with. Like, were any of them more than I thought they were?
Prose: A little too polished and just a bit TOO nerdy (never thought I'd say that), but it worked. And I really liked Ezra's voice overall.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you like nerdy things, complicated concepts and introspective plots, this book'd work for you. Also, if you're into The Great Gatsby you should definitely give this one a read. 

Have you read this one? Has it convinced you to NEVER ride a roller coaster again - or at least never, ever disobey the rules at the amusement parks? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. I want to read this book so badly! It sounds pretty different, and yet a lot like every John Green book out there. (Y'know, in which all the characters are also INSANELY SMART, and I'm always like, yeah when I was in high school I DID NOT THINK LIKE THAT. But that's okay, because those books are some of my favorites. I'm rambling.) Also, I have not read The Great Gatsby. Nor have I seen the movie. I think I should remedy this.

  2. I think my curiosity about this book is truly growing. While it does seem that this book didn't work for everyone, it kind of feels like a book I'd enjoy. Ezra seems like a truly interesting main character, and I'd definitely like to meet him (by reading his book, of course).

  3. I have an ARC of this book, but I've been hesitant to read it for some reason. However, after reading your review it kind of makes me want to pick it up, if not just out of curiosity to read all of the nerdy things, and about a boy names Ezra who seems interesting enough haha

  4. I think you said it right, Gaby. This one really IS a philosophical, thoughtful sort of book. It isn't all about the action, or the destination, but about the journey. I really loved Ezra's journey, and all the things he learned about himself while on it. And YES, you nailed it - HE took himself down a peg while changing, and it was the best thing that ever could have happened to him.

  5. Hahahaha, I think I got most of the references, but you do have a point about most teens probably not getting them. I do not read with the audience in mind a lot. Haha.

    Ezra definitely did the damage to himself. I didn't really think about it that way, but you're so right. He's convinced they won't accept him so he gets all prickly and makes sure that's the case.


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