Title: The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis: 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?
Final Rating: ★★★☆☆
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When I think about this book, the first thing that comes to mind is the very first chapter. It is written with such poise, with such strong voice and wit and intrigue that I just can’t get it out of my head. I went into this book with no expectations whatsoever, but after reading the first chapter, I sunk into my blankets a little deeper, and thought to myself, “Oh, this is going to be good.”
Unfortunately, the book itself didn’t manage to live up to its extremely strong beginning. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, I thought the story to be uninspiring, and I felt that the writing was very flat throughout most of the novel. I don’t know what it was with the extremities of this book that added that extra star to my actual rating; the first chapter and the last chapter were so meticulously fabulous that I just had to add that star.
I didn’t have any serious issues with the plot itself, to be honest. It just wasn’t something I would particularly recommend. I don’t know where it falls in a category because sometimes, I felt it was all over the place. I think the protagonist’s “tragedy” of never being able to play tennis again, or never being able to walk properly again, was already such a huge deal that to add a romance on top of it and certain mysteries and drama was a little too much. It began to feel like a cry to be acknowledged as a complex story with several plot-lines, but it was too short to actually carry out the several story-lines that were introduced.
I would have liked it a lot more if Robyn Schneider had focused on Ezra’s life disintegrating, rather than him moving on. If she had focused on how he lost his friends, or how it was like before his accident, rather than focusing on his moving on, I feel like we would’ve gotten a lot more with regards to his development, and it would have benefited the story tremendously. Perhaps his integration into his new group could be slow and gradual rather than just BAM you’re one of us! Meh.
I enjoyed the fact that nothing super happy happens in this book. When it comes to young-adult contemporaries, we’ve begun to have this view that most of them are happy-go-lucky, light, fluffy reads where everything turns out right and the sun is always shining at the end and it’s beautiful and wonderful and rainbows sparkles and unicorns. I don’t like that, for the most part because it’s unrealistic. A novel ends with everything sorted out, but that’s not how life works. Where one part sorts itself out, another part of your life continues to be a fuck-up (excuse my French.) Life is messy, and trivializing life’s messiness makes a novel unrealistic. While there are certain happier moments in this novel, some things are still left unresolved. And I’m fine with it. It’s not a happy ending, because several things go down that are never really solved properly, and that’s how life is, because sometimes you just don’t know what ever happened. While you do get closure, it’s not overbearing or pretentious.
Also, bonus points for the Harry Potter and Doctor Who references.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t connect with the characters. See, it’s not that I didn’t like any of the characters- it’s just that their mannerisms and behaviors were so unknown to me. We have a group of people who are total geeks, smart-asses yet are all on the debate team. I don’t like a lot of geeky stuff, no matter how hard I try. I’m fairly smart, but I think debating is a nightmare for me because of my slight social anxiety. So, I barely had anything in common with the characters, and a lot of them seemed the same to me. They didn’t have distinctive voices or individual personalities, really. It bothered me. I can’t even remember half the names.
I don’t think any of the characters developed at all. I think if the story would have shifted back a little on the timeline, there would have been a lot of scope for development, but alas, there wasn’t.
Robyn Schneider has a gift when it comes to writing with a strong voice, and that is crystal clear and the first and last chapters in the book. I know, as a reader and writing student, that sometimes it is tremendously hard to maintain a voice throughout a piece, especially if said piece is a three-hundred pages or so book. But if Schneider had put more time and attention on the voice of the protagonist, I feel like it would have done heaps for the novel.
Would I recommend? I feel that if you liked “A Little Something Different” by Sandy Hall, you might enjoy this because the writing and tone is similar.