Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Beginning of Everything - Robyn Schneider

Summary: 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.

Summary and cover art from Goodreads.com

My review: At first pass, you might think you've picked up a John Green novel. Wise, witty teenagers dealing with darkness, flirting with happiness, yet knowing that no happy ending could ever be in store for them. But unlike Green--who comes off as self-indulgent to me--Schneider is less trite and weaves a more dimensional tale that is a joy to read. 

After Ezra's accident, he resigns as the reigning king of the school. While other YA books might have had him banished to his table of misfits, Ezra willingly banishes himself. It takes most of the book for him to discover that his jock friends are still his friends, willing to do anything to help him bridge his "before" and "after." And Ezra learns he never really was king of the school. Perhaps king of his clique, perhaps Homecoming king, but he learns that other cliques have their hierarchies that he never knew about nor appreciated. The lines of cliques he once saw are blurred. The growth and tragedy he experiences during his senior year--though he initially attributes it to his relationship with It-girl Cassidy Thorpe--comes from his own development. I was quite pleased with that. I'm all for a good transfiguring love story, but in YA, it's especially nice to have the main character's development be independent from the love story. 

The characters shine as the heart of the story. Ultimately the theme of the book is that people are kind, good, compassionate, and understanding. The limits we live in are often self-imposed. Who we are at 16 will never be who we are for the rest of our lives, and that's a very good thing. And, of course, young love is wonderful and heartbreaking, but it's not meant to last and that's okay. 

My rating: Four stars

For the sensitive reader: Swears, including a handful of F-words, though not as riddled with profanity as some YA books (Looking for Alaska, for example). A hazy memory of a decapitation at Disneyland, handled in a mostly comical way--not gory. Kissing and teen sexuality. Teen drinking, though it's fairly demonized. 

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