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
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
You know how when you search and/or purchase a book and the recommendations display at the bottom. Well, this one has been popping up for months, maybe even a year, and my instinct was to ignore it. Always go with your gut.
This book wasn't horrible and I didn't return it, but I wish I hadn't spent my credit on it. The author tried to put a twist on it with newly fallen popular boy navigating "nerd" territory after being shunned for reasons beyond his control. Enter new girl, liking him as he is and the inevitable twist. Predictable time waster, but not worthy of purchase. Many clever YA titles abound, skip this one.
One last thing...the female voices are cringeworthy. If you're still interested, do yourself a favor and listen to the entire sample.
“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.”
This was one of those books where I had to read the whole thing before I could appreciate it. I felt that the book was a bit slow and not much happened; there was a twist at the end that I enjoyed and I liked the ending. I had been thinking it was just a two star rating but looking at it as a whole I enjoyed it. The narrator was good but it may have been better with the addition of s female narrator for the female voices.
I expected more based on the description of the book but was met with a boring story about a high school boy, which I did not realize. Add an 80's sitcom sounding narrator with terrible valley girl 80's sitcom voices and it was altogether agonizing. Like nails on a chalkboard and I tried to get past it but could not take this story seriously. Nothing like John Green's books, as audible falsely lead me to believe by recommendations from looking for Alaska.
Story was so so. I spent most of the book wondering when I was going to find out what was going on. Characters are endearing so I kept reading. Narrator was good for main part BUT his simpering characterization of female characters was extremely irritating.
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.
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