The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
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 Severed Heads, Broken Hearts 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.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“I’m not certain I can pinpoint the exact moment when I became irreparably different. These days, I think it wasn’t a moment are all, but a process. A chemical reaction, if you will. I was no longer Ezra Faulkner, golden boy, and maybe I hadn’t been for a while, but the more time I spent with Cassidy, the more I was okay with that.”
So you’re either going to love this or hate this. Personally, there was a lot more to love for me than to hate in this one, and that the one bit that I didn’t like, I actually loathed, but first:
Slick. There’s a back and forth here that kept things electric. How every single time, the girl had something to say, and for every single one of those, the guy had a funnier thing to respond with. Funny even, how very much like Jiminy Cricket one particular character was; how he’s there and smarter and trying not too preach but helpless as he ends up being preachy anyway (but not too preachy, of course.)
Then there’s that bit about Perspective. How things have him seeing every thing else in a different light and him acknowledging that his put too much and so and so when it’s been him all along. I still don’t like the way she sometimes spoke, almost expecting the lot of them not to get it. OK, I actually did like (and didn’t like) how she put things, but what she had to say? Like I said? Deep… and very John Green like. I think that what’s I loved the most, how very much like a John Green cast this particular lot felt.
The Title Ergh, titles? Both the original one and the new on, actually. Initially I was feeling like they’d missed the mark switching titles the way they did. If anything, it’s catchy. “Severed Heads (and) Broken Hearts.” I dare anyone to disagree! But I get why it’s been changed, as the former’s perhaps.. maybe .. falling under the realm of trying too hard, like bands names that suck, if you get what I mean? (Redneck Death wish, anyone?) And this new one’s a bit more YA contemporary, even friendly somehow as it tells us exactly what it’s going to be about. Catchy as the original was, perhaps the new one fits too because Beginnings? There are those (and more) here.
The Not Quite Awesome… (but not quite that either.)
I find labels obnoxious, as I’ve just now discovered especially when said labels are self assigned. Ezra is jock boy who feels his lost everything. You might hate him though simply because there’s something about a guy complaining about being top dog and losing the same that doesn’t wake my sympathies. Am I alone? I don’t think so. It’s simply hard to completely like a a guy who sounds like his the shit or was the shit when his just full of shit… hmmm… tangents, I’m on one. Except you see, the kid grew on me because he truly was clueless about how he’s perceived and how he puts himself out there even when not meaning to.
And he isn’t actually that bad! (or more accurately, he’s not bad at all!) Especially as the kid finds his new place with these new people each have their own thing. Granted, I drew back at how perfectly “perfect” they were in their little bubble because they’re so different! But I loved him with them particularly them and their “slightly mocking ways” for anything that’s not done by them and them “still wanting to partake.” It’s the last made them True but a little Sad simultaneously. Better is me discovering that they’re not “perfectly perfect” as I’d earlier pegged. They made me laugh with their in jokes and their corniness, and they made me believe them with the pettiness and tiny insecurities of one for another.
Then there’s who Cassidy is for him, Mystery girl to his former Jock boy (again, with the labels!) Only here she becomes more for him, but at the same time, stays the same (Am I making sense? I think I am … I hope I am.) The reveals made were a little bit of a let down for me because I thought I knew and I found I was right! But still I felt like something more was going to happen and had it all set up in my head even! But if you consider what she allows to happen and what he realizes because of her… Well, all those things? They were true… even if I felt the cause/source of those a bit inauthentic at times. I mean just consider,
”Life is the tragedy,” she said bitterly, “You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end up the same way, and it isn’t with a goddamned wedding.”
As said, the girl had truths to share, but overshoots things somehow because instead of resounding with me, I was doubtful. “Charming smart” can be sometimes be not charming at all. Or this,
“…Tempting to just let people imagine you. We move through each other’s lives like ghosts, leaving behind haunting memories of people who never existed. The popular jock, the mysterious new girl. But we’re the ones who choose, in the end, how people see us. And I’d rather be misremembered than make you, of all people, miserable.”
It’s in considering this aspect that some of that ineffable thing that turns a story into a ‘Story’ almost on me (and I’m sorry in advance but I think I’m going to muddle this up) but anyway, here goes: Throughout the book, I felt like I was reading a John Green novel, smarter, wittier, slicker kids who have something to say and then say it. Except where Green’s leads are smart, owning said intelligence and yet still sounding real, this particular character (Cassidy) over shot and ended up sounding hollow/inauthentic to me (talking head? She wasn’t that bad!) She’s a mix of a lot of Green’s girl leads: inspiring the boys to become more and find something, set apart and aware of everything. Maybe even hyper ware because the rest of the people around her seem so much less when right next to her.
“All our longings are universal longings,” Cassidy said, “He was talking about the human condition. And if, for our generation, that happens to be a collective longing for a world before smart phones, then so be it. There’s no sense I speculating on the enduring impact of the recently Past; if popular culture was that predictive, then everything would be obsolete the moment it came into existence.”
But my point is: she’s slick… a bit too slick. And here I go again with my Green comparison with his smart kids, smart minds and deep, deep conversations plus observations and turns of phrase
I love this like I love all John Green’s books.
BIG, GINORMOUS THANKS to Edelweiss!
And why? So many things were True here. And let me not forget the funny:
“If everything really does get better, the way everyone claims, then happiness should be graphable. You draw up an X axis and a Y axis, where a positive slope represents a positive attitude, plot some points, and there you go. But that’s crap, because better isn’t quantifiable.”
“Oh, Shut up.”
“I didn’t say anything.” Toby grinned broadly.
“Your silence is judging me.”
“”That’s probably true.”
“I thought of the hydrocarbon chains in organic chemistry, the same thing upside down, and how knowing to look for it changes your whole perspective.”
”Austin believes that wining or losing in binary is meaningless when there’s a high score to beat.”
”True that,” Austin said, saluting her with his stylus.
:So Austin, “ Toby asked, “Do you beat your own high score everyday?”
It sounded so dirty that we all cracked up.
“Are you asking if I’m a master debater, Ellicott?” Austin returned.
“There’s a word for it,” she told me, “in French, for when you have a lingering impression of something having passed by. Sillage . I always think of it when a firework explodes and lights up the smoke from the ones before it.”
”That’s a terrible word,” I teased, “ It’s like an excuse for holding on to the past.”
“Well, I think it’s beautiful. A word for remembering small moments destined to be lost.”
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