Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Reading Level: Young Adult, 13+
Pages: 335 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2013
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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~
I went into this book with no expectations and I came out of it practically salivating at the mere thought of Schneider releasing a second book. This is a brutally honest coming of age story; a journey of self discovery mixed with severed heads, broken hearts, angst, a big black poodle, and wry humor that had me cackling throughout the novel. Overall, this book was a really sobering experience. This book represents life, the world we live in, how one can find themselves at the most inopportune times. This is what it's like to be a teenager and grow. And, damn, did my heart swell as I turned the last page, unwilling to say good-bye so soon.

This book is perfect for fans of John Green. Schneider uses similar dialogue techniques. By that I mean that all of the characters are sort of hyper-intelligent and if you can't keep up you can get lost in their plethora of explanations for the most randomly awesome things. After watching many of Schneider's vlogs on her YouTube channel, it's glaring obvious that these characters are similar to her personality. She loves those random facts that nobody else knows and she constantly wants to share them with the world. She's fascinated with weird German words, which do make several appearances in this novel. She is also a literature buff, but hey, aren't we all? These three aspects of her combine to create her characters in really interesting ways. They're constantly spewing these facts that I never would have found otherwise and I loved every second of it. I learned from this book, legitimately learned awesome facts to spring on my unsuspecting peers when they least expect it. And the best part is that she found the perfect time to insert these tidbits, so I never felt rushed or confused. At times the explanations were slightly word-vomity, but more often than not they were simply engaging. This book is full of philosophical thoughts and it makes you question many things while it tears your heart in two and slowly stitches it back together.

Ezra is officially among my favorite characters ever. And, hey, he's a good Jewish boy so I can bring him to life from these pages, introduce him to my father, and marry him without an ounce of guilt! He was hit by a car on the way home from a terrible party. This accident changed his life. He could no longer rule his school, his trusty tennis racket at his side. Never would he be able to play sports again, nor would he ever truly reclaim his position high on the popularity totem pole with the cane that helps him walk replacing his tennis racket. To put it simply, he was sort of depressed that summer. He was bed-ridden, he was missing his friends that never bothered to visit him in the hospital, he hated his ex, Charlotte, and he despised the fact that he'd never be able to play tennis again. His muscles thinned, he lost weight, his tan disappeared. Ezra pre-accident no longer existed. He returned to school to find that he was more of a spectacle than anything else, only to discover that true friends can be found in the most unlikely of people.

Watching him grow and re-discover himself almost seemed like a privilege to me. It wasn't an easy journey, but it was absolutely marvelous. And it was so easy to relate to him as an 18 year old myself that I found it nearly impossible to put this book down. Ezra was used as a tool to allow Schneider to insert this unbelievably hilarious sense of humor throughout the book that constantly had me smiling. While I can imagine some people struggling to relate to our injured hero, his unique humor made me connect with him even more. And watching him accept the fact that he was once vain and terrible was astonishing. He welcomed his new life eventually, almost eagerly, and looked back at his past with disgust. He didn't envy the old him and instead realized that the old him sort of sucked. I think that such an epiphany is rare. Normally in coming of age stories the characters move on from their past and open their arms to the future. He not only came to terms with his past, but he was determined to make sure his past self never reappeared in his future. Can we get a slow clap for this boy, please?

I also found the romance to be great. It happened slowly over time, the way that love should be. The road to this relationship was rocky and Cassidy did not make it easy for Ezra. They fought, they laughed, they soared and hit rock bottom. They epitomized a teenage relationship. There was no perfection, there was no simplicity, there was never any black and white. Everything was gray and a lot of things didn't work out, but that's what it's like to be in love for the first time and I'm so happy to see something real. Cassidy was a very strong character that was incredibly witty, but she had a lot of problems that were not explained until the end. When the big reveal came I still didn't believe it was a proper excuse to treat Ezra the way she did at times. She was lost, to put it simply, and while this is Ezra's story of finding himself because of his belief that Cassidy is the catalyst to his new life, she needs to find her own catalyst and discover herself, too.

This book pushes the thought that one's true self is born from tragedy. You learn to live life and discover who you really are only after tragedy strikes. In truth, I can relate to that, and I think that this may be why I loved this book to pieces and found Ezra so likable and easy to relate to. If my Dad did not nearly die from a stroke that I witnessed when I was in Kindergarten, I can guarantee you that I would not be the person I am today. I would not love books, I would not be as independent or self-assured as I am, or as focused on my education. As terrible as it is, fearing for my Dad's life and watching him constantly forget who I was during his immediate recovery set me on the path that I'm following now, just as Ezra's horrific accident changed his life. And Toby's horrific accident in the beginning of the book defined him. This concept hit me deep in my heart, which made this book all the more powerful to me. I'm literally sitting here with tears streaming down my face because as a kindergartener it was rare for me to find people who understood me among my immediate peers due to the severely different home life I grew up with. It was always my older friends that were willing to digest the severity of anything I went through. And I'm sitting here reading about a boy who, in his own way, completely gets me. The rarity and irony of it all is tugging my heart every which way. I went through this horrific time in my life from age six to ten watching my Dad recover from a stroke that nearly killed him and stole most of his memories away. If my own Dad couldn't remember who I was, how would I know who I was? And this book, in its own little way, sort of answers that and depicts thought processes similar to what I went through at this time in my life. I was rooting for Ezra just as I had to root for myself. And, gah, the reality and perfection all bundled up into less than 400 pages is astounding.

From the beginning to the end, Schneider littered this book with unconventional twists that we never saw coming. The opening itself kept me riveted and refusing to put this book down. And when I turned the last page I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders because of my happiness for Ezra. But, at the same time, I felt this gut-wrenching hollowness settle into my stomach. Not only was I not ready to say good-bye to Ezra and his amazing cast of side characters that depict a plethora of high school cliques, but I was left wanting more. I wish I could say the ending was completely satisfying to me, but I became so invested in these characters that I'm not utterly satisfied with how this book finished. It's not even that I need more, I just need more questions answered, or more plot points summed up fully instead of being left open to interpretation. It's the stubborn nerd in me that needs to be truly satisfied. And while the ending was solid, I don't think it lived up to the rest of the book in my eyes.

With that in mind, this was one of my favorite debuts ever. Through Ezra, I simply felt like Schneider understood me. Mainly because of my own personal tragedy mentioned above. It broke me apart and tore me to pieces which is what made Ezra's journey so meaningful to me. While I understand that some people may lack the intense emotions that I felt with this one because of their lack of relating to Ezra the way I did, I still think that this is a book that almost everyone needs to read.


 4.5 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation whatsoever in exchange for this honest review.

10 comments:

  1. For some reason, I really expected to dislike this book, so it was an awesome surprise that it was so good! I saw her speak on a panel, but I didn't learn that much about her! She is like John Green as an author if the characters are like her. Thankfully, I enjoy how they are.

    Bahaha, Ezra's your book boyfriend now, huh?

    I, too, thought the ending was strange, which I think is why I gave it a 4 rather than a 4.5. WTF coyote.

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    1. I enjoyed them a lot in this one. <3 And they really reflect her when you watch her vlogs which is really cool.

      He is! My Dad always says I gotta marry a Jewish boy. Well, look who I found!

      THE COYOTE! kldjsglkdjfglkdj don't even get me started. I was happy where Ezra found himself, but I wasn't entirely satisfied. It was like ah! So close to perfection! <3 Yet so far away...

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  2. Eeeeeeeeeek. I am so desperate to read this book. I've heard so many amazing things about it. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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    1. Haha enjoyed is an understatement. I'd say LOVED. I hope to obtain a finished copy somehow. <3

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  3. It's wonderful when a book connects with you on such a personal level! It hasn't happened often, but when it does, it's amazing. It's sounds like this book was so cathartic for you. This was such a beautiful review! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It really was cathartic for me. A lot of parts of it resonated with me in ways other books haven't resonated with me before. It's why it kills me to not be able to give this book the 5 stars I wanted to give it! But the analytical part of me had to step in front of the emotional part of me and well yeah....

      Thank you for, Christianna! <3

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  4. "She loves those random facts that nobody else knows and she constantly wants to share them with the world. She's fascinated with weird German words, which do make several appearances in this novel. She is also a literature buff, but hey, aren't we all? These three aspects of her combine to create her characters in really interesting ways." <-- Sound like awesome things to inspire characters. And having little tidbits like that sounds super engaging and awesome. I would quote them to my unsuspecting friends too :P. I also love it when a book has other things beneath the surface - philosophical meanderings that I can think over in the coming days. Here's my question for you: you said this was for John Green fans because of the intelligent characters and beautiful writing. Do you think that she is more successful at making the characters real? That's generally my problem with his work, so am wondering at the comparisons.

    "And, hey, he's a good Jewish boy so I can bring him to life from these pages, introduce him to my father, and marry him without an ounce of guilt!" <-- If only we could take them from our pages.

    "And watching him accept the fact that he was once vain and terrible was astonishing....He not only came to terms with his past, but he was determined to make sure his past self never reappeared in his future." <-- Agreed that that's rare, and bravo to the author for having pulled off such growth!

    Your personal connection to the book was very touching to read.

    Shame that the ending didn't live up to the rest of the book, but here's to hoping the author's other work will evoke the same level of emotion in you.

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    1. Haha yeah! They're mini Robyn's in this book and I loved that! The only John Green book I've read is THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and I happened to connect with Hazel and Augustus easily, but in the back of my head I always felt this air of unbelievability surrounding Augustus because nobody is that perfect. I was able to connect with Ezra really easily (outside of my personal connection to him) because he was an all around good character who really learned and evolved throughout the book. He was just amazingly written and easy to connect to because you were rooting for him. He was funny too so... haha

      There's gotta be a Harry Potter spell to make people in books come to life. I'm telling you! It'll be brought into existence one day and I will abuse the crap out of it!

      I know right! Schneider just blows my mind. It was so rare, yet so perfect. I loved it.

      Thank you <3

      Of course. I cannot wait for her next book.

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  5. Love this review, Lili! And I'm glad that you were able to connect to the book in such a powerful way. It does sound really sobering, as you put it. Now I wonder if I should steal this from Krista... definitely tempting after reading that!

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    1. Thank you, Becca <3

      It is sobering! I say do it! ;) Whoever will read it faster! haha

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