A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Beginning of Everything is a contemporary coming-of-age novel about a star athlete whose life irrevocably changes after he's run over by car and left with permanent injuries. There are some mature themes in the story, like how tragedy can divide life between "before" and "after," and how some people, no matter how much they love each other, can't overcome the tragedy they share. There are descriptions of physical relationships, including passionate kissing, making out naked, and mutual oral sex. Three tragedies (a decapitation at a theme park, the car accident, a sibling's death) are discussed throughout the story, and there are many references and homages to The Great Gatsby and author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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What's the story?
In Robyn Schneider's THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING, protagonist Ezra Faulkner recounts his belief that sooner or later tragedy changes everyone's life into a \"before\" and \"after\" tale. His childhood best friend Toby's moment came on a birthday trip to a theme park, when a rollercoaster accident catapulted a decapitated head onto his lap. For golden high school tennis star Ezra, the great tragedy occured just before junior year ended, when a car rammed into him as he fled a party. The accident shattered his knee and permanently injured his leg. At the beginning of senior year, Ezra -- now using a cane -- realizes he's no longer a big man on campus and starts hanging out with Toby and his crew of debate kids and film geeks. There's also someone new who catches Ezra's attention: Cassidy Thorpe -- ethereally beautiful, ridiculously smart and completely unlike Ezra's homecoming queen ex.
Is it any good?
Ezra's story is poignant, funny, and demonstrates the arbitrary way that high school students segregate themselves into various little like-minded groups. The Beginning of Everything was originally titled Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, and despite the macabre connotations of that original title, it evokes the overarching theme of the story: that tragedy may divide your life, but that doesn't mean it has to define who you are, how you live, who you love. In fact, tragedy is unavoidable, as Ezra knows firsthand, and it should make you reassess and march onward. Of course, Schneider's prose is much cleverer than those platitudes.
Cassidy is one of those quirky "manic pixie dreamgirl" types, but she's so fiercely intelligent you don't mind that she's also encouraging Ezra to ditch his mall garb for a leather jacket. The many allusions to The Great Gatsby and philosophy are sometimes blissfully obvious (the way Cassidy and Ezra live in houses with faraway views of each other) and sometimes subtly intriguing for die-hard Fitzgerald fans. Precocious high school readers will love Schneider's references and the realistic portrayal of a relationship in the last year of high school.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Begining of Everything's many parallels to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. How many similarities did you catch?
Many young adult novels have main characters who feel they're "different" and no one can understand them. How is Ezra different after his injury? What does Cassidy mean when she says that he's the one who changed, not she who changed him?
What do you think the author's trying to say about life and relationships?
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