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 and fiercely intelligent.
Together, Ezra and Cassidy discover flash mobs, buried treasure, and a poodle that might just be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby. 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, 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.
©2013 Robyn Schneider (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers
I'm an audiobook addict and blog about books at The Reading Date. My favorite genres are YA, New Adult, Fiction & Memoirs.
Quirky, smart contemporary books are some of my favorite reads, and that was what I hoped to find when I picked up The Beginning of Everything. This book first got my attention with its off-beat original title Severed Heads, Broken Hearts (which I still prefer!) Though the title has changed, the story still has a smidge of a black comedy vibe to it. The story has layers to it, some of the twists are predictable, but overall I enjoyed it.
Pop culture references aplenty figure into the book, with gaming, bands, literature, and sparkly vampires name-dropped. And there’s even Ezra’s cute dog Cooper that he says reminds him of Jay Gatsby. These references keep the tone light and breezy even though some serious topics arise.
Robyn Schneider does a great job with making the male voice sound natural and believable. Her writing is fresh and witty, and at times I wished that I read the book rather than listen to the audio so I could stop and appreciate her words more.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Dan John Miller (he also narrates John Green’s Paper Towns). Miller reads the book with a California type of laid-back voice. His voice matched well to relaxed Ezra’s demeanor and he has a deadpan delivery. I didn’t love his female voices though, which sounded like how guys sound when they try to mimic valley girls. The reading pace was a little slower than I prefer, matching Ezra’s character I guess, and the narration took me out of the story at times. Check out a sample to see if the reader is a good fit for you.
The rollercoaster pictured on the cover figures into the story, and actually a scene in the book takes place on Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and got under my skin so much I was having Disneyland dreams the nights I was reading the book.
The Beginning of Everything is an interesting coming of age with a strong male voice that should appeal to fans of quirky contemporary.
I am an avid reader, mother of two, fangirl, nerdfighter, Chicago Cubs enthusiast and NASA supporter.
The Beginning of Everything follows Ezra, a high school golden boy, severely injured by a car accident that sidelines him from his popular life in high school. Enter Cassidy, who is different from any other girl he knows and obviously has her own major baggage. Their relationship and Ezra’s recovery, both physically and emotionally, is told in The Beginning Of Everything. I guess what held me back from really liking this book was how hapless Ezra was. Even if he wasn’t really into it, someone who was a former class president and tennis team captain would surely have a little more drive or ability to handle life. The two parts of his character just didn’t flow together well. Perhaps it was because we don’t really know him until after the accident, but he never rang true to me. On the other side, Cassidy was…well, she was a very Alaska Young type character. I couldn’t stop thinking “this is so similar to Looking For Alaska.” I guess you could make the argument that she is a bit of an anti-MPDG, but her place in Ezra’s life served the same purpose as a full-on MPDG. The connection that Ezra and Cassidy share, which you don’t find out until the end of the book, was supposed to be shocking, but simply seemed too convenient. Having said all of that, this book was not a total loss. The friends that Ezra makes after his fall from popularity were fun to read. Ezra does go on a sort of journey into his past friendships that have been resurrected after his accident. The new friends were probably my favorite part of the book. I did like the idea of the story, even if the execution was somewhat lacking. I also appreciated the ending which was bittersweet and did justice to the rest of the book. I think that I was expecting more from this book, in the end, and it just never delivered the emotional punch I was looking for.
The narration of the audiobook was good. Ezra’s voice came through very well in the reading. I was not a huge fan of the female voice that the narrator used, but I think that has more to do with my extreme pickiness about that and not any problem with the narration.
“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. That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary-a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen..”
Ezra believes that within everyone’s life a tragedy lies waiting, and that only after said tragedy occurs does one’s life truly begin. Or, maybe, that is just how he wants to see the world since tragedy has befallen the once “golden boy” of Eastwood high school, a fictional school in a fictional Orange County town that seems very much like the Irvine I grew up close by to. Ezra’s tragedy changes his life drastically, and it is now up to him to decide how it changes him within that life.
This is more than the typical coming-of-age story, and it is more than the young adult label may suggest, this is a book about living at any age, about loss and love, and about figuring out who you are deep down inside, and not just who you are to the world around you. It will most likely be categorized on the “if you like John Green” shelf, which is not a wrong summation, but I think it is unique in its voice, style and character, as well.
My initial love for this book came to me because of location. The setting, though fictionally named, is the area of Southern California that I came of age in. I know this place, and the inhabitants that live and grow there. I know the streets and the landmarks, the sound of the Disneyland fireworks, the fear of coyotes and the wealth backed right up to the migrant worker groves. I also know the pressure of the schools and students who live there, and the perceptions that so many try to live up to, or at least survive within.
This book reads immediate, as if it was written yesterday, with nods to songs and bands, fads and technology. There are silent flash mobs, Doctor Who references, pep rallys to Vampire Weekend and make-out sessions to Bon Iver songs. And, there are philosophy and literary references that delight the book geek in me. The book overflows in pop culture in just the way that I adore.
The characters are the kind that creep in and stick to my heart, especially Ezra and Toby. I loved their friendship, the complexities and ebb and flow that often happens to friends who meet in childhood and drift during adolescence. Theirs was my favorite relationship, and I was glad to see it transcend throughout the span of the story. I was also partial to Ezra and his dog, Cooper, very much a “boy and his dog” emotional tug that had me literally in tears at a certain point. I also loved that Ezra and Cooper had a Nick and Jay Gatsby relationship (loved The Great Gatsby references).
Cassidy, the girl who comes into Ezra’s life at the post-tragedy turning point was a tough one for me. I wanted to like her, I wanted her to come around in the end and be something more for herself, and for Ezra, but she never did. There were shades of the “manic pixie girl” to her (I vehemently hate that term though), and at times she struck me as a teenage version of Clementine (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), except not as likable, to me. Though, I will say that the wanting to like her and not ever getting there was unique, and in some ways I welcomed it. She was part of Ezra’s journey, and not every part of our epic life journeys include people who stick and stay forever.
My two complaints are that I wish the author had stuck to the initial title of the book, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, which I think fit so much more and has a more unique punch to it. Also, the narrator, Dan John Miller, while fabulous as Ezra, was terrible when doing the girl’s voices. It came across as a bad parody of a 1980′s Valley Girl and was often times distracting to the female dialogue.
Beyond these minor complaints, I loved the book, the characters, the references, the setting, and the relationships. Ezra and Toby are now part of my list of favorite fictional characters, and Cooper, on a new list of favorite fictional dogs.
“Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spend a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”
A somewhat less predictable plot, perhaps? Or maybe a slightly more likable love interest. Generally I think you're supposed to be rooting for the couple to be together, not hoping the girl would be ravaged by Coyotes.
It really started strong, Ezra's thoughts on how everyone has their own tragedy and the story of his best friends, and his own, and well into the first few chapters I really was enjoying it, but then it just became a predictable Coming of Age story.
Personally I'm not a big fan of male narrators, so I can't name any off the top of my head. He did fine with the male voices, but the female voices were pretty rough to listen to. But it could also be that I couldn't get into the story enough to ignore it.
Cassidy. I know that she is a main character, but I really did not care for her. Her personality was too uppity, judgmental and condescending.
I really wanted to like this book, it was suggested as an 'If you liked The Fault in Our Stars -- You'll like this' and I felt this was a poor imitation of John Green. Striving for a touching, intellectual story but it just fell short.
While I didn't absolutely hate the story, it was an evenings entertainment, I rather wish I hadn't opted to get this one.
I pretty seriously hated this book. Loathed it actually. I really only finished it so that I could write a scathing review because I really hated it that much.
The characters are barely more than cardboard cutouts made from restroom gender icons with pithy words scrawled on them in red sharpie. Not a lot of substance but indicators as to what we're supposed to think of them. I didn't think much of them, I can tell you that. They are shallow, immature, emotionally crippled and selfish with little to no care about any of the other characters. I hated them all.
Very little happens in the plot. Basically there is only one real event in the whole book, followed by one fake event later on that is emotionally way more stomach turning than the first one. Neither really ended up making me care about the characters, but the second one made me hate them.
I got this book in order to give me something like John Green, and it has been compared to his works a lot. If you like John Green, don't read this. This is John Green as interpreted by the CW and the writers of the film "Clueless". Also, if you hate John Green, you will also want to avoid reading this. It echoes JG just enough to make it really, really annoying.
I really wanted it to be fun and emotionally charged. It wasn't. It was painful and emotionally stunted and not worth your time.
I don't know but I'll probably avoid YA for a book or two.
It didn't help that I read the audio version. The reader, Dan John Miller, was unconvincing as a teen boy, and annoying as a teen girl (picture Frank Zappa trying to do the Valley Girl voice in the 80's song instead of his daughter, Moon Unit). I wanted to reach out and slap my iPhone each time he switched genders.
It was short.
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