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.
First sentence: “Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at spotlights could be only moments away from disaster.”
I had expectations for this book – the kind that when I read this book, I will clutch it and all the characters to my chest as if they’re my cherish stuffed animals and thrust it into people’s faces, screaming, “you must read this. Your life needs Ezra Faulkner.” That is sort of the case, but not? Sure, I liked it…a lot (a lot A LOT), but something was lacking in it that prevented me from fully connecting with the story. A large part of that was the plot around Cassidy Thorpe (who didn’t really exist for me) and everything that happened after the debate tournament (because it was too fast-paced and unrealistic).
The Beginning of Everything is told from a male’s point of view, Ezra Faulkner (who has a pretty awesome name), about his life after a personal tragedy that leaves him unable to play tennis and without his so-called friends. He embarks “on a journey of self-discovery” (yes, I used that horribly cliché description) to find himself and his own place in the world with new friends and interests. Yeaahh, it’s more interesting than it sounds in my sum-up of the book.
- Male POV!
I always get excited when YA books are written from a male’s point of view, especially if it’s contemporary (instead of the typical dystopia or post-apocalyptic type books) because those are kind of rare. I like getting inside their heads and seeing how authors portray them.
I love the friendships in this book. Ezra’s so-called friends (the jocks) ditched him when he needed them, and Toby Ellicott, Ezra’s childhood best friend, swoops in like nothing has changed between them even though they hadn’t hung out in years. Toby’s own friends accept Ezra into their group, teasing him the first time he sits down with them as if he’d always been apart of the group. Although every one in this group has different interests (glued together by being apart of the debate club), they get along. You know they have each other’s back even if they’ve known each other for barely a month.
Toby gets his own bullet point because he is fucking awesome. The two major things I love about him are: 1. He’s witty as hell! and 2. He’s a really good friend. He tells Ezra like it is. He warns Ezra about Cassidy and how she will break Ezra’s heart. He tells Ezra he’d been a shit friend to him during his time of need when they were younger. I was happy seeing him tell Ezra what needed to be said. A mopey Ezra is not a good look. Also, Toby’s tall, and wears bow ties and a blazer (very Eleventh Doctor). He doesn’t let his own tragedy at Disneyland define him. I like that he isn’t a stereotypical “geek” who’s quiet and hides away in a corner from jocks. He’s a normal teenager, who has interests that doesn’t pertain to sports. He doesn’t act like a different person to impress people. Toby is Toby.
- The wit. (Particularly Ezra, Toby, and Cassidy)
These characters…I want to be friends with them. Realistic or not, I enjoy their wit. They’re clever and funny; they like to joke a lot! (I love that!) More bantering please! The witty writing kept me engaged in the story and it made me love everybody even more. And I love it when the characters made literary references. I always get excited because I actually understood it (even though I usually don’t). Who wouldn’t guffaw at “old sport” (from The Great Gatsby) or at Harry Potter anything?
- Ezra Faulkner!
Why isn’t he in my life? Because 1. His name is fucking awesome, 2. I love his retorts, and 3. He is the type of person I would enjoy hanging, purely because of his wit and the jokes he makes. I like that he has flaws and insecurities. He’s spent the majority of his life being someone people expected him to be – the cool kid, the jock, Mr. Popular – that he fails to realize that he’s not actually himself and that he’s been a really shitty friend. When all that expectation is torn away, we get to see this insecure teenager who doesn’t really fit anywhere and is trying to find where he belongs. He’s just as lost as everybody else. Who doesn’t relate to that?
When Cassidy tells Ezra that he seems to be holding himself back, I find myself relating to him, especially when he thinks:
The way I figured it, keeping quiet was safe. Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many. Jokes could be grandly miscalculated, or stories deemed boring, and I’d learn early on that my sense of humor and ideas about what sorts of things were fascinating didn’t exactly overlap with my friends. (ARC 66)
And that is me! I am the type of person who likes to joke around (ie. my sarcastic jokes and winky faces on Twitter), but I’m always afraid I’d say something that’ll offend somebody or say something that sounds ignorant, especially when I want to break the tension in a serious moment. I don’t have as many friends that could joke around with me like the way Ezra does with Toby and Cassidy and that sucks. This observation makes me love him even more and I didn’t think it was possible.
- Not understanding Cassidy Thorpe
I don’t like Cassidy Thorpe. Only because I don’t feel like I know her after everything that’s happened. I don’t understand why Ezra likes her. I wanted something more to Cassidy, but as I continue to think about her character, I realize I was okay with not knowing more. This isn’t her story; it’s Ezra’s. I see what he sees. She’s basically a crutch for Ezra’s growth. I can see that Ezra puts her on a pedestal, almost like he’s idolizing her for being the reason his new life happened in the first place, and I see that he doesn’t know Cassidy as well as he thinks. That is so realistic, especially with first loves.
I don’t usually include quotes in my reviews, but I found myself being in awe by some of Ezra’s thought process:
I still think that everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. That moment is the catalyst—the first step in the equation. But knowing the first step will get you nowhere—it’s what comes after that determines the result. (ARC 12)
[Cassidy] did add the elements that allowed me to proceed down a different path. She lent a spark, perhaps, or tendered the flame, but the arson was mine. Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spent a long time existing, and now, I intend to live. (ARC 335)
They were very profound and left me pondering about my own life – whether I’m living it or just existing.
- To get a deeper understanding for Charlotte (Ezra’s ex-girlfriend) and Luke Sheppard
I don’t really understand their significance to the story. Yeah, Charlotte is there because she’s the ex-girlfriend, and Luke is there because he’s another member of the debate club who doesn’t like Ezra. That’s it. I wanted more to Charlotte and Luke Sheppard than what we see – a cheating, inconsiderate ex-girlfriend and a jealous douchey film club president, respectively. I actually wish Robyn Schneider played up the tension between Ezra and Luke. Have a confrontation perhaps! I just need something because there’s no character growth for the two characters and no other reason why they keep coming back to the story even though they fulfilled their purpose earlier in the book. I feel like nothing would change if you take out these characters.
- To connect with the story better –
One minute, I was enjoying the story and the characters, and then the next, something snapped in my brain and I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I think this disconnect occurred after the party in the hotel room when Cassidy switched her debate rounds with Ezra without telling him. Cassidy Thorpe is a big mystery to me. Yes, we eventually find out what happened with her, but I still didn’t understand her or really liked her. Everything after that was extremely fast-paced. Scenes that I didn’t care about passed by so quickly like a whirlwind. It was too unrealistic and dramatic. So many things happened in one scene that it was hard to process it all. I found myself rolling my eyes because c’mon, the coyote thing and the “we can never be together” reason was fucking stupid. It made me angry because I liked this book.
Experience Ezra Faulkner and Toby Ellicott yourself by reading The Beginning of Everything. You will find a witty teenage boy who’s figuring out what it means to be himself (and not what people expect him to be) and what it means to actually live. This book certainly made me think about how I present myself. Am I actually acting myself? Am I acting like what people expect me to be? Am I truly living my life the way I want? Don’t be fool by the grade I bestowed this book. I think The Beginning of Everything is worth reading.