Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Beginning of Everything (Severed Heads, Broken Hearts in the UK) by Robyn Schneider

  • Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
  • Release Date : August 27th 2013
  • Pages : 352
Synopsis: 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.

The Beginning of Everything tells the story of Ezra Faulkner, the popular high school tennis star with the perfect senior year in front of him. But it all falls to pieces in a moment when Ezra is hit by a car and left walking with a cane. Now, his girlfriends has left him, he doesn't know how to relate to his friends and has resigned to spending his senior year alone. Then he is taken in by his neighbor, Toby, and along with a few quirky debate team members  Ezra grows in ways he never expected.

I've been waiting on this book for a while. I was first introduced to Robyn Schneider through her YouTube channel RobynIsRarleyFunny. I liked her personality and how she straddled the line of beauty guru and nerdiness. And as a watched more videos where she discussed the book along with other personal anecdotes I found myself getting really excited for this release. And after finally getting my hands on an advanced copy, I have to say this book didn't disappoint.

Ezra's first person narration is laid back and tinged with humor, making it very easy to slip in to, I found myself just flipping through the pages. Despite his injuries Ezra still has remnants of being the the popular, but modest good looking guy, and this perspective is  not usually the one we get in YA

This novel also has a love interest in Cassidy Thorpe, the mysterious transfer student and former debate star, who takes Ezra under her wing when he finds himself on the debate team.  I was concerned Cassidy would be a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she completely steers clear of that trope and has problems of her own. I don't want to get into spoilers, but I can honestly say I have never read a character written quite like her. In fact, by not making her a Manic Pixie it kind of made me see why we like Manic Pixies so much.

There are plenty of pop culture references to be had as well. Schneider is a commentator on a Dr. Who talk show, so there are quite a few Dr. Who references as well as very specific Harry Potter references and probably more that I didn't even catch.

I wouldn't be surprised if this book starts getting compared to John Green. If you are familiar with his work it's hard not to think of his novels while reading this book. I mean when Cassidy discusses escaping the panopticon (the idea the entire world is a prison) it's hard not to think of Miles and Alaska going to seek a great perhaps in Looking for Alaska. Or how when Cassidy talks about being misremembered it's hard not to think about Margo and Q in Paper Towns and being misimagined.

This novel isn't perfect. This book definitely screams "privilege" because all the characters are rich suburban kids who seem to live in a bubble. Not mention it is far from passing the Bechdel Test because the named female characters in this book never speak to each other and (outside of Cassidy) are only identified as girlfriends to male characters  And it is kind of hard to see those things in a book that at times can be very smart and witty. But, I don't think that should diminish from the value of the actual story.

A witty contemporary with an endearing protagonist about the tragedies in life we see in front of us and the ones we never expect.

*ARC received  from Book Expo America.


  1. I love what you pointed out about privilege and the Bechdel Test. It's so true that sometimes a book can wrap you up in all of its snappy wit that it becomes easy to miss what it's leaving out or who it's overlooking. I actually saw this compared to Looking for Alaska earlier today, so you're right about that. I can't resist good pop culture references, though, so I might have to check it out ;)

  2. To be honest I didn't even recognize the privilege thing until saw it mentioned offhand Twitter and it got me thinking on to the Bechdel test. I mean I definitely recommend this, I think you would enjoy it.

  3. I've heard of this somewhere else as well and really want to read it. Especially after this great blurb. I'll have to get my hands on it. You know, because my TBR list just isn't long enough ...

  4. I love the idea of getting a more unique perspective...sometimes reading YA it seems like all the narrators are the same!

  5. I first heard about the Bechdel Test a few weeks ago from another blogger on Twitter and have since become fascinated by the way it is, or is not, present in YA Fiction! I'm even considering writing my Postgraduate dissertation on the prevalence of it within YA/Children's Fiction.

    Having seen this novel in my supermarket this morning (and doubting myself because I know it under the US title/cover, not the UK title/cover), I may have to pick this up sooner rather than later - especially as this may be a really useful thing to read for my thesis!

    The main thing that makes me a bit uncertain is the references - which are definitely being played up here in the UK by the publicists - to Robyn Schneider being the "next John Green", and this book being perfect for "fans of John Green". As someone who hasn't really bought into the John Green fandom, even though I've given him a good chance, I'm not sure how much I will enjoy this! We shall see! I'm going to keep an open mind, and see how I get on.

  6. I see so many people being like Cassidy is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and I want to be like... did you read until the end?!? I also think you really hit a great point about her NOT being one explains why society likes Manic Pixies so much -- there story is fun, light and not depressing. Mostly because they aren't a fully, actualized human being, but it makes for what people think is a good story.

    The only part I didn't really like was the really privileged teen kids part. It almost felt like they were college kids given the things they did, how much freedom they had, etc.

  7. Eep! So glad to see that you enjoyed it too, Kat! I actually never knew Robyn had a YouTube channel until I checked out her Twitter account, so I think it's extremely cool (it reminds me a little bit of John Green, who also has a YT channel with his brother). You totally nailed this book with this review. I loved how realistic and believable Ezra's voice was. And Cassidy couldn't have been more unlike an MPDG. The privileged part didn't really get to me though, because most of the YA books I read nowadays involve teens living in slums, rural areas, etc., so it was a bit of a refreshing read to see something different.

    Lovely review!


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