October 1, 2013

Title: The Beginning of Everything

Author: Robyn Schneider ♥ @robynschneider

Published: August 27, 2013

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins

Pages: 335

Source: Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 10/30/2013): 3.93

  • Christina thought this title was a good look at how people handle their own personal tragedies. It goes on her 3rd shelf.

** SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Initial Thoughts and Actual Rating: I’m giving this an actual rating of 3.5 stars. If this book was based off of Toby alone, it would have received all the stars. I liked Ezra’s voice and his journey of personal growth, but felt the rest of the book was… a little underwhelming.

I still think that everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. That moment is the catalyst- the first step in the equation. But knowing the first step will get you nowhere- it’s what comes after that determines the result.

The Lowdown: At the very beginning of the book, we’re immediately introduced to our former golden boy turned book narrator, Ezra Faulkner, and learn that it’s of his belief that every person will experience a personal tragedy at least once throughout their lifetime– it may be early or later in their life and a big or small occurrence– and that will be the definitive moment where everything before doesn’t really matter and everything after does. For Ezra that moment came when he had everything important– or so he thought– to lose: his social status at high school, his girlfriend and friends, his athletic career and possible scholarship offers, and basically everything that had defined who he was until the point that it happened. The worst thing was that it wasn’t even an event that he could control: one random night, one reckless driver, and a whole host of unfortunate events collaborated together to bring about his downfall. Or so he thought…

In actuality, it was his struggles after the accident that lead him to new friendships, a questionable romance, and ultimately figuring out who he really is when he’s stripped of all those expectations that the world had placed upon him.

My Thoughts: Ezra, he was a likable MC and I truly appreciated his personal growth throughout this novel. It was really a tale of his journey to self discovery and learning about how to live for himself. Even though his friends and Cassidy helped him realize the changes he’d made along the way, it was really all his own doings and I liked that about this book. I also appreciated that it dove deeper into how people handle their life struggles- some come out of it fighting, others allow themselves to be defined by it, and others wallow in it and let it drown them.

Another notable aspect was how realistically I felt he was portrayed and represented. In fact, all of the dialogue that was written in this novel was exceptional. I never once felt like I read a section that came across as questionable in its authenticity of a male voice or how teenagers speak; it all flowed perfectly and felt current without ever reading as forced. In my opinion, the author really was able to effortlessly capture the voice of today’s generation.

I found Ms. Schneider’s writing to be lyrical and gorgeous, and was easily enamored with her prose. However, I will admit that in some instances, particularly in those moments when Cassidy was waxing poetic, I was utterly lost in the philosophical whirlwind of her quotes and her inability to ever give a direct answer. This was one of many parts that I found myself being glad and sad all at once; thrilled that there was this eccentric girl who was gorgeous and intelligent, but sad because I felt like her deeper moments of reflection where I was supposed to get her and love her more, it all went completely over my head. In the end, I never really felt like I knew who she was and that made it more difficult to want to connect or understand the relationship she had with Ezra. Perhaps it was written this way on purpose, though, because as much as she felt like a mystery to me, she was an even bigger enigma to all the rest of the characters as well.

Speaking of characters, I really liked all the secondary ones, or at least what I felt I got to know of them. Aside from Toby (more on him in a minute), I felt like we were only given snippets of these characters that had the potential to be spectacularly amazing and some of the most memorable characters in YA. I wanted more time in the debate hotel rooms and at the floating movie theater and at the lunch table just to scratch a little further beneath these great exteriors so that I could really find out who these people were beyond whatever gadget they were attached to at any given moment. I wanted them to be more than there resident, stereotypical space-holder in the high school realm of a novel.

Lastly, I don’t understand the coyotes. In the end, what purpose did they serve except to make my heart a little more achy? Did they have some metaphorical reason for existing that absolutely bypassed my NyQuil-addled brain? I hate feeling like I may have missed a bigger picture somewhere along the way, but that’s the only theory I have on why they were in the book at all.

Verdict: I’d say read it for Toby alone. I fell in love with his bow-tie-and-blazer-wearing self and he drives a van called the Fail Whale, I mean, come on now. Honestly, I wish he would have had his own book. He also provided me with all the cackles.

“It’s hilarious,” Toby assured her. “All the girls wear tacky satin dresses covered in rhinestones, and all of the guys come behind them and freak dance.”

“Freak dance?” Cassidy raised an eyebrow.

“You know, rub their junk on them trunks?” Toby explained in an attempt to be gangster that made me choke on my iced tea.

But as for the rest of The Beginning of Everything, there’s a good inspirational story in there, realistic characters, great writing and I laughed and ached the whole way through, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend it or not because I don’t think it’s for everyone. I enjoyed most of it, so I’d say give it a try if the summary interests you.

A very special thanks to Katherine Tegen Books & Edelweiss for providing me with an early copy of this book for review.

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