Novel: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider | Goodreads
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
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.
This is quite a story. With vivid writing, clever characters, and a spirited plot, it’s a surprisingly tender coming-of-age with a resonance beyond the last page. Despite its laid back feel, it has a power beyond the puns and the tears and the humor. I loved it, whole-heartedly loved it.
First off, Ezra was the quintessential heartthrob. He had an intellectual demeanor, was social but not overtly so, and his Golden Boy perspective was delivered in a way that was appealing. In addition to his effortless charm, it was thoughtful and immediately propelled him to the ranks of narrators such as Miles from Looking for Alaska. It was almost conversational, but encompassed both poignant and dorky parts of the narrative with a refreshing grace.
I have a severe weakness for intelligence– if I can have an intelligent conversation with you, I’m yours. So reading a voice like that was surprisingly endearing, ensuring that I will definitely be ranking Ezra Faulkner among my favorite protagonists for years.
Cassidy herself was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl- screwed up and colorful, exciting and mysterious- but not to the point where it was obnoxious. In fact, her pretentiousness got on my nerves at some points but her character was still charming. She was confusing and bright and also complex enough to make me feel sorry for her major struggles.
Major respect goes out to Schneider for not having the romance be the driving force behind character development. Cassidy definitely contributed but they fought and they had their ups and downs, and Ezra’s change throughout the book was not entirely dependent on Cassidy.
Toby was a riot. All the supporting characters were, but him especially. His friendship with Ezra was fluid and funny. It had its ups and downs with grooves and intricacies of a real, years-old friendship. Even with the consideration that they were reconnecting as friends, it was well done.
Their friendship reminded me a lot of my brother’s group of friends. I’ve always envied their collective foundation of pop culture references intermixed with a constant hilarious banter. That same banter was what made Toby and Ezra’s friendship so ENTERTAINING to read. While still cinematic, laugh-out-loud witty, and thoughtful, the characters still felt like people I could run into on the street. His friend group had a nice diversity- not of ethnicities but of personalities- but not one character felt forced or out-of-place with them.
Despite how easy it was to slip in with the characters, it was never boring. They did wild things but it was never beyond possibility or something that made me roll my eyes.
So many parts and details that I just straight up appreciated: the dorky puns, the relationship with his parents, his dad’s phone, Cassidy’s decisions when it came to hooking up, author’s choice of the tennis team – rarely focused on as a sport as well as the debate team. I’d never really thought about debate or tennis, and they were so put-together. And Ezra with his dog! I loved that relationship.
Eastwood as a setting and a culture reminded me of where I’ve grown up. The community, the sense of being well-off but not being ostentatious or glitzy, in a way that was simply inexplicably part of their culture. The standards of education and the schools were excellent (which pleased me). They were members of country clubs, expected to be involved for college, grow up to be executives and lawyers and doctors. All that Ezra grew up with was simply a part of his life and not exaggerated to the point of annoyance that so many other books do nowadays.
One complaint: cliche popular group.
Despite that, Robyn Schneider’s depiction of teendom was pulled directly from reality. Wow. I found it difficult to believe that she’s not a teenager herself. Homecoming, phone usage, parties, and lunch table dynamics and all of that. Highest possible compliment I can give. It was also really refreshing to read about all the ambitions that the kids have. In my area, maybe one out of every four conversations is about college or extracurriculars to get into college. It seems a little ridiculous but it’s true. Ezra and the lot were just so relatable and I want to be friends with them now.
Respect to Robyn also goes for keeping the accident scene absent of melodrama. The resulting trauma and after effects were felt, but with mixed emotions and a subtlety that made it much more powerful. It felt honest. Ezra’s injuries became an immense part of his personality and his character through all the struggles he faced on a day-to-day basis, all the stares he got from his classmates.
The Gatsby references were excellent! Reinforcing the intelligent natures of the characters were these incredible conversations about philosophy and science and ideas. When those were put into place, they didn’t feel obvious or pretentious. It was interesting and connected well, serving the profound nature of the book in a way that was larger than life. Between Cooper and the lights and the overall story, it worked really well.
I can’t decide whether I liked the ending but I didn’t dislike it. It wrapped up some things up cleanly and others were more ambiguous- that felt real.
The Beginning of Everything captured the exhilaration, the strangeness, that head-over-heels love that excuses any flaws. It was an emotional roller coaster to read but still always enjoyable. It’s bewildering and smart and thrilling beyond everything else and made me laugh about every other page. Realistic but also undeniably cinematic, ensuring that this is one I’m definitely going to remember.