Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Catch A Severed Head, and Put It In Your Pocket...

Expected Publication:  August 27th, 2013
The Beginning of Everything (Originally titled 'Severed Heads and Broken Hearts')
By: Robyn Schneider
Katherine Tegen
ISBN-13:  9780062217134

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.

     Ezra Faulkner had it all - the girl, the car, the friends, popularity, jock status and the possibility of an athletic scholarship.  But then one night after he left a party, Ezra was in a horrible car accident that shattered his leg and destroyed his dreams for the future.  Now his friends are no longer involved in his life and his girlfriend, Charlotte, is dating his former best friend.  So he finds himself sitting with Toby, his friend from elementary school who caught someone's severed head on a Disneyworld rollercoaster and was ostracized for it.  Ezra also becomes the newest member of the debate team, as his schedule has been changed to accommodate for no longer being on the tennis team.  This is how he meets new girl Cassidy, who is mysterious and smart, completely different from anyone he's ever met before.  They begin a whirlwind romance, but with all the secrets she's keeping things may not last as long as Ezra hopes.  Can he become the person he always should have been and will his life ever be the same now that Cassidy is part of it? 
     I went into this expecting it to be more like reading a Sarah Dessen book than anything else.  That would have been totally fine, seeing as I love Ms. Dessen's books but what I got was something special in its own right and very original!  Unlike the synopsis implies, Ezra's friends are still trying to half-assed include him in their lives and activities.  But they do it in stupid, unfeeling ways like inviting him on sporty trips he can't be part of because of his leg.  And he's rightfully angry and confused, because none of them stayed to help him when he was hurt in the accident, they all left because they didn't want the cops to bust them for the party.  None of them visited him in he hospital either.  Toby's reacceptance and integration of Ezra into his life, group of nerd friends and the debate team he captains is wonderful.  He is an excellent example of taking an unfortunate circumstance and not letting it derail you (aka the severed head).  Also, he's not afraid to tell Ezra when he's acting like a douchebag.  Cassidy was my least favorite character, although the friendship and eventual romance between the two of them did make me smile.  But she is hiding some major secrets and has a serious superiority complex, acting like everyone else is dumber than her and beneath her notice.  Her stunts at the debate team competition are stupid and juvenile, and made me angry even though I understood her pain (if not her jacked up reasoning).  I guess that was the point of some of the events in this book, life doesn't always make sense and we don't always know people as well as we think we do.  The best thing about this book is the transformation of Ezra (definitely for the better) and how he becomes a completely different person gradually through the course of the book. 
     There was some very smart, witty dialogue but I never felt like I was being pandered to and I never got an impression of phoniness from any of the characters (except for Cassidy, but it fit with her habit of trying too hard to be okay).  Ezra's narration was very teenage boy, real and involving some deep feelings but also dealing with moments without common sense and garden variety teen behavior.  He's caught between letting himself change and trying to hang onto the way things used to be, even if they no longer fit into place the same way.  That's something everyone can relate to.  The ending was heart-wrenching, but wonderful in that it was completely unexpected and more true to life than most contemporary YA books turn out to be.  I did feel like some of the pop culture nostalgia was more in line with mid to late twenty-somethings and not teens.  For example, Furby and Tamogachis were both mentioned! Although Ezra's Halloween costume is pure late 2000s and will make you laugh if you have a sense of humor like mine!  Also, the twist involving an unknown connection between Cassidy and Ezra felt like it kind of came out of nowhere and didn't fit in with the feeling to the rest of the narrative.  Highly recommended for fans of contemporary YA romance/coming of age stories, who like a book that will play with their emotions and make them fall in love with the characters.
VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is August 27th, 2013.*

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