Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Also published outside the US as SEVERED HEADS, BROKEN HEARTS by Simon & Schuster.
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.
This book. Seriously, this book. The Beginning of Everything came out about a year ago, and it’s been a while since I read it, but ever since I first finished it, I’ve been able to confidently say that it’s one of my favourite books. Ever. Of all time. I was one of the long-time fans who waited for a really long time for this book to come out, and I won’t lie–as with all books I wait patiently for, I was extremely anxious that I wouldn’t like this book or that it would let me down in some way. Truth be told; there was no part of this book that didn’t shatter my every expectation. It’s a fantastic story, it’s impeccably written, the characters are very real to me, and after reading the last chapter I’m left extremely happy with all 335 pages of it.
If you’re interested in this book, then stop reading here because SPOILERS!!! Honestly, if you are a fan of contemporaries and haven’t read this book yet, you have to leave, buy this book, read it, weep, and then come back.
Spoilers begin in 3…. 2…… 1……
The book opens and we’re introduced to the main character, the narrator, the unblemishedly, fantastically talented Ezra Faulkner. He’s the most talented tennis player in all the land, is dating the most perfect girl, and is the epitome of the social standings. He believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, just like his ex-best friend Toby. When Ezra and Toby were younger, Toby was the unfortunate recipient of the head of a young Japanese lad who failed to respect the rules of roller-coaster riding, throwing Toby to the lowest reaches of the social structure. Within the first chapter of TBOE, Ezra befalls his own personal tragedy; he catches his girlfriend in an overly-friendly position with a guy who most definitely isn’t him, and as he leaves the party in a strop, he’s involved in a horrific car accident, leaving his leg, his social life, and his tennis career crippled. In the coming months, he recovers from his accident, left with the knowledge that he’ll never play tennis again, and that he’s probably going to have a limp forever. Outcast from his jock-friends, he re-unites with Toby, and eventually joins the debate team, and quickly becomes friends with the new girl at school, Cassidy Thorpe.
I could get so far into describing and reviewing every character that I think I better leave it before this review goes on for days. I’ll settle for talking briefly about the two main characters. It was fascinating to me when, two hundred pages in, I slowly realised how Ezra had developed over the last two hundred pages without me consciously realising, how Robyn has written his development so subtly that it seems completely natural, other than when authors tend to write between the lines, “LOOK AT THIS CHARACTER AND HOW MUCH THEY HAVE GROWN!” Ezra goes from being angry, almost hostile, at the world for the state that it’s left him in, to being so completely comfortable with everything in his life that it really hits us, the reader, hard when we realise just how much he’s changed only to be dealt the same cards again when Cassidy cuts him down before the dance, leaving him crying in his bed, whispering “I hate you, Cassidy Thorpe. I hate you.”
Cassidy herself is such an interesting character. What little we know about her seems to become her. Everything she does in this book, we learn a little more about her from. Unlike other literary characters who have their backstories explained to us so we understand every movement from them. That’s why, at the end when she breaks Ezra’s heart, I’m left feeling heartbroken too, as if I’ve somehow been a part of this book, becoming friends and falling in love with Cassidy the whole time too, and I’m left hungry to find out why she done what she done. Though heart-breaking her motives, they don’t feel un-natural or forced. I think that’s what’s so alluring about the book in the end; it all seems so… normal. They don’t come back together at the end and fall back in love, they don’t have a happy ending. It ends the way that it has to end, because Cassidy knows that she’s never going to be able to see Ezra the same knowing that her dead brother is the reason why Ezra has become what he’s become.
The fact that the two of these people fell so hopelessly in love with each other over such a naturally normal time span, I really hoped that they’d stay together throughout the book–I loved how much they really just seemed to fit together. Ezra brought Cassidy to life through his words, and Cassidy brought Ezra to life–his real life, rather than his fake jock-like life–through everything she done and said to him. The shopping scene, the time they went to a college together pretending to be students in which Ezra, shocking all, came out of the lecture having enjoyed what he’d learned, the flash mob scene (yes, Toby, bow ties ARE cool!)… all of these things were so un-Ezra like, given his introduction to us, that we really got to see how Cassidy changed his life. But then, of course, after they broke up and Ezra decided he didn’t want to keep living his life in that way, that that was like living in Cassidy’s world, but without Cassidy. I’m glad he did go back to Cassidy-world though, after an extremely brief return to his old life.
The ending with Cooper though. I can barely even talk about it, it’s too heartbreaking. You’re always going to be a hero in my heart, Coop.
When Cassidy explains everything to Ezra; why she had to lie to him and break up with him, why she could barely look him in the eye anymore… I hated the way that things had to go, but couldn’t help but understand that it was all the way that it had to be. Everything fell into place, like the world’s harshest, dark jigsaw.
There are a thousand things that I haven’t spoken about in this review, but honestly all that you have to know is that this book, to me, was perfect. Robyn Schneider uses her incredible writing talent to craft a story and a cast of character that I know I will continue to return to, and can’t help but recommend to every book lover that I meet. I adored the epilogue of the book, seeing Ezra and his friends a few months later happy and content with life without Cassidy, because if the book teaches us anything it’s that life goes on. It always does. And even more than that; it’s okay to let life go on.