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The Beginning of Everything

Review

The Beginning of Everything

Perfect for fans of John Green, Robyn Schneider's debut THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING asks both its characters and its readers to reevaluate their expectations of happiness and success.

Ezra Faulkner is the golden boy of the junior class. Star of the varsity tennis team, class president, about to become prom king --- Ezra seems to lead a charmed life. That is, until he encounters his girlfriend, Charlotte, cheating on him at a spring party. Furious and humiliated, Ezra storms out of the party, only to be plowed into by another car.

"In the end, Ezra's story might not have the kind of conclusion readers expected or even hoped for --- but it is exactly the right conclusion."

Flash forward to the start of senior year, and Ezra's life seems to have changed entirely. He has to walk with a cane, the damage to his knee has put a permanent end to his tennis career, none of his so-called friends visited him in the hospital or over the summer, and he's certainly not the prom king or the class president anymore. But if Ezra isn't the most popular guy in school anymore, than who exactly is he? "I was destined to forever be someone whose defining characteristic was lost forever at seventeen, rather than found," Ezra reflects at one point.

Almost by accident, Ezra turns away from the varsity/cheer squad crowd (after all, they've already turned away from him) and toward the members of the debate team, including his old friend Toby, with whom he hasn't really hung out since middle school. Ezra's not a debater, but Toby and his friends seem ready to accept Ezra, limp and all, which is more than Ezra can say about his old crowd. And Ezra --- in the absence of tennis practice and nonstop parties --- finds himself actually interested in studying for the first time that he can remember. Ezra's never been a dumb kid --- he's just felt the need to hide his smarts (and even his books) from his friends.

All that changes, though, when he meets Cassidy Thorpe. She's brainy, too, a former star debater at her old boarding school who's now returned to her home town to finish her high school career. No one knows just why Cassidy has moved back home, but Ezra doesn't much care --- he is just intrigued by her smarts, her style, her beauty and most importantly, her fearless indifference to the popular set. And Cassidy seems to be into him, too --- until the discovery of a secret changes everything between them.

Early on, THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING seems like it might be another run-of-the-mill teen romance novel, about how a little dose of tragedy and the right quirky girl helps save our handsome, brooding hero from himself. But that's ultimately not what the novel is about at all. Schneider's debut is full of the kind of brainy kids and witty dialogue that have drawn readers to John Green's novels --- and she also subverts readers' expectations much as Green himself does. In the end, Ezra's story might not have the kind of conclusion readers expected or even hoped for --- but it is exactly the right conclusion.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 22, 2013

The Beginning of Everything
by Robyn Schneider

  • Publication Date: August 27, 2013
  • Genres: Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062217135
  • ISBN-13: 9780062217134