I am going to attempt to write a full review today and schedule it, but for now, EVERYONE needs to read this book. It's a convincing, realistic male POV - Ezra is flawed, and hysterical, and fucked-up, and so much more than he realizes. There's humor and romance, and there are bleak moments, grief, and so much hope wrapped up in this book.
If you read ONE YA contemporary/realistic fic book this year, let it be this one.
This review is difficult for me to write, y’all. I went into The Beginning of Everything (formerly titled Severed Heads, Broken Hearts) expecting a good read, and came out of it an emotional mess, because Robyn Schneider made me feel SO MUCH, and even now after finishing Ezra’s story, I’m still thinking about the messages – both the statements about how tragedy can shock and change you, and also the idea that it can reshape you when you aren’t even looking. I’m not sure I’ve felt as laid bare by a book since I read The Fault In Our Stars.
Ezra is one of those rare, self-aware characters, and I can’t imagine The Beginning of Everything being narrated by anyone else. I spent various parts of Schneider’s book wanting to wrap Ezra in a hug, or give him a come-to-Jesus talk. He isn’t a bad person, but he isn’t the best version of himself yet, either. Ezra is one of those characters with so MUCH delicious potential, but it takes him the whole of The Beginning of Everything to SEE that, and when he does…well, I’m not sure right now that I’ve seen a more beautiful, whole, COMPLETE moment in literature in a long time.
While I was ugly crying during The Beginning of Everything, I still had enough presence of mind to admire Robyn Schneider for being the AMAZING writer that she is. Her writing style is fantastic – clear and intelligent, sometimes a little TOO smart, fast, and yet there’s a lot of heart in it.
I liked Ezra right from the start, as I said above, but what I loved is that Schneider brings a whole slew of awesome characters into The Beginning of Everything. Ezra, Austin, Toby, Cassidy, Phoebe – they’re all very genuine. Despite seeming at times like too-wise-for-their-years they don’t feel pretentious at all. They’re a lot like some of my friends from high school. I drifted from crowd to crowd during high school, and was always friends with everyone really, but my senior year I had a group sort of like the one Ezra stumbles into, and is welcomed into, so these characters are true-to-life.
This is going to be one of those reviews when nothing I say is right. *grin*
I loved the pacing in Schneider’s story, because it just felt…perfect – quick at times, when that was needed, and languid at others, and I really felt like I was THERE, not just reading about these teenagers. What’s more, even though The Beginning of Everything uses a light framing device, nothing ever felt out of place, or moralistic. Everything happened in its own gorgeous timing.
And the character growth. My gosh, the character growth. It’s like Robyn Schneider wandered around in my head and wrote the exact things I love SO MUCH. Ezra’s tragedy breaks him down, and Cassidy, Toby, and others, as well as the tumultuous months that follow rebuild him. Seeing Ezra grow made my heart feel so full, and I adored how the various characters were either foils or complimented him, and all served small parts in helping him become who he did. And the ROMANCE. My goodness, there is NO insta-love or love triangle here. What there IS, is a genuine, slow-burning romance that about drove me INSANE waiting for a kiss or a touch.
As I realized I was getting close to the end of Robyn’s book, I had this violent hope that my Nook was wrong, and there were more pages. I just. I didn’t want this one to end. I was that wrapped up in Ezra’s story – grieving for him, growing with him, sighing over his beautiful relationship with Cassidy, and unraveling her mysteries, learning so many lessons with him.
Final Thought: The End of Everything is a brilliantly, poignantly written book that has made me think a lot about me, my life, and how tragedy has reshaped me. Ezra is a wonderful, alive character who I think will resonate with a lot of people. The romance was SO slow-burning and well-done, and unexpected. I loved this book a great deal.