Severed Heads, Broken Hearts – Robyn Scheider
The back cover of this book tells me that this book’s hero, one Ezra Faulkner, smart boy with a limp, will knock Augustus Waters off the top of my literary crush list. We all know that Augustus is a somewhat pretentious charmer, Ezra is very similar, but, and my apologies Ezra, Augustus is still clinging to his crown.
That isn’t to say I didn’t love Ezra. Ezra is one of my most favourite names ever. I LOVE THE NAME EZRA. That’s in capitals just so we’re clear. And the Ezra of the story is pretty loveable, but he still can’t quite tip Augustus.
Oh and just so we’re all on the same page, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts also goes by the name of The Beginning of Everything. Both titles seem appropriate.
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 career as a jock, 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.
Together, Ezra and Cassidy discover flash mobs, buried treasure, secret movie screenings, and a poodle that might just be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby. 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?
With lyrical writing, nerdy humor, and realistic romance, Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a story about how difficult it is to play the part people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
This had a beautiful cover. I often get suckered in with a beautiful cover. This is the sort of book which is AMAZING until you start to think about it too much, I loved this book up until the moment I put it down and started running it through my mind.
You see, this book is incredible, it has a teenager who spends the first seventeen years of his life convinced at how everything is going to turn out and then have it all taken away from him, he has to learn who he is all over again and this book does so elegantly with some brilliant prose and a shed load of humour. It’s just a shame that there were so many things that upset me when thinking it over.
Thing is, I’m getting a bit fed up of reading YA where the lead character moans about their loving parents like they’re the worst people on the planet. Ezra does this. I’m also a bit tired of the whole High School cliche where all the sporty kids are somehow inexplicably popular despite the fact that none of them have personalities and all the less popular kids are the most awesome people ever. This happens in this book.
Ezra starts off being one of those popular, sporty kids who hides his personality because he doesn’t think his friends will understand it. Yeah. That’s being a great friend, Ezra dude. He then becomes a less popular kid because of his accident, through his own choice and starts learning how to fill the personality that he has, which is great because he’s discovering himself and everything, but it also makes him a little judgemental because suddenly he’s hating on all these people that he spent years being besties with.These besties may have not had much to do with Ezra when he was in hospital not sure whether or not he’d walk again, but these were people he spent a lot of time and his sudden distaste of them didn’t really sit well with me.
I don’t know if this is just because it’s lost in translation, in English schools, the sporty kids are not automatically popular. Usually, the popular kids were just the ones everyone else was scared of. Anyway. The whole high school cliche was a bit irritating after a while.
It sounds like I’m really hating on this book, but that’s not the case at all, with a little more originality, this book would probably be up there with my favourites of this year.
It wasn’t just the high school thing that got to me. There was also the fact that this, like seemingly every book ever, had a mad pixie dream girl.
Now, I myself am guilty of writing a mad pixie dream girl. I fall for them all the time, the spontaneous girls that take you out to museums and book stores, the girl who will one moment strip off in the back of your car and the next have a discussion about catcher in the rye with you. I love those girls, but you know, that is sort of the point of the mad pixie dream girl. They’re dreams. I don’t have a problem with the mad pixie dream girl, Cassidy was a great character, she was interesting and smart, funny, she wore vintage clothes and snuck into lectures. She knew what she was and she told Ezra straight that he couldn’t chase the idea of her. I don’t mind the employment of a mad pixie dream girl half as much as I minded that Cassidy’s sole purpose was to make Ezra’s ex girlfriend, Charlotte look bad.
Seriously guys, SLUT SHAMING IN YA IS REALLY GETTING ON MY NERVES.
I am so fed up of reading about girls being portrayed in this way. I am a girl. I know plenty of girls. The girls that lure boys into secluded areas and show them their boobs are every bit as human and respectable as the ones that chose not to. Being aware of your sexuality and using it is nothing to be ashamed of. Unless of course, you’re reading a YA novel because that seems to be the trend in books that I read these days.
Ezra constantly compares the pair, Charlotte, despite him dating her for eight months, is shown as being a vapid air head who was moody and distant and adulterous. Cassidy is shown as being clever and fascinating, her mood swings are intriguing rather than annoying. Charlotte makes out with boys in school, gets caught giving oral at parties and is shamed, Cassidy strips off and makes out with boys in the backs of cars, gets it on with Ezra surprisingly quickly for someone who preaches abstinence. Both of them are exploring their sexuality and only one of them is judged for it. Here’s a hint. It isn’t Cassidy. The fact that Ezra talks about how Charlotte is a serial dater, Toby talks about how Cassidy only ever toys with guys and yet the fact that Ezra has a string of girlfriends that he doesn’t seem to have much respect for isn’t mentioned at all. I know this might be a bit revelatory, especially considering that the author of this is a woman, but girls are people too. Its about time that we got a bit of respect in literature. Just saying.
I’ve gone on way too long about this book. I haven’t even covered what I liked about it yet. This book was, if you over look the blatant slut shaming and cliches actually really enjoyable and like I said, if I’d finished it and moved on, all would have been fine. Ezra was a great character, and had I come across him before Augustus Waters, maybe he would be the top of my literary crush list, his friend Toby was also amazingly witty and kind of interesting too. Cassidy was interesting, Pheobe was interesting. They were all great characters, the dialogue between these kids was amazing and it was full of pop culture references and nods to films and the Great Gatsby. Honestly, all of that was incredible.
The best bit for me, had to be that Ezra’s journey of self discovered happened inspite of his meeting of Cassidy, not because of it. Which I guess is the main crux of the novel, that he realises that he can become whoever he wants to be. The opening and the ending of this were also poignant and all kinds of wonderful. In fact, I was in love with this book from the opening chapter, it was actually very true to the mad pixie dream girl relationship, it reeled me in with this fabulous beginning and then it turned out to be less fantastic than before. Like the dream ended and reality kicked in.
Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, there are plenty of broken hearts and an actual severed head.