The Beginning of Everything

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Beginning of Everything Book Poster Image
Engaging novel shows teens' lives altered by tragedy.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the rules of debate, how to make a good argument, philosophical theories, like Michel Foucault's idea of society as a Panopticon. Those who've read The Great Gatsby will recognize several similarities and homages to Fitzgerald's classic.

Positive Messages

Ezra's story encourages teens to look beyond popularity and social status to examine who they really want to hang out with, who will be there for them through tragedy and triumph. The Beginning of Everything also stresses the importance of intellectual conversation, debate, and self awareness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

After his injury, Ezra learns what a mistake he made ignoring old friends and those he deemed unpopular. Cassidy doesn't care how popular she is and shows Ezra how speaking up and caring about things beyond campus status could make him happier, more involved. Toby doesn't let the horrors of his birthday decapitated-head story define who he is, and he welcomes Ezra back into their friendship.

Violence

The Beginning of Everything explores tragedy, death, violence, and grief. A theme-park decapitation and a car accident that permanently injures the protagonist and kills the person who hit him are described or alluded to throughout the novel.

Sex

Although the author doesn't shy away from describing the physical aspect of Ezra and Cassidy's relationship (they never have intercourse but do get naked with each other and have oral sex), her language isn't overly graphic. She uses euphemisms like "outercourse," as a stand in for oral sex, and alludes to the fact Cassidy saw Ezra's penis and how Ezra's first time was in a hot tub without being too explicit.

Language

Plenty of strong language, but it's not on every page: "f--k," "bitch," "a--hole," "s--t," "douche" as a prefix to everything from "bag" to "nozzle" to "canoodler," "crippled," and "Vomdoucher." Two uses of the homophobic slur "faggot" (but said by the gay character as something a jock has called him before).

Consumerism

Mostly car makes: Volvo, Honda, Land Rover; also Guinness beer, Diet Coke, Red Bull, Barnes and Noble, and Solo cups.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink (beer, shots, wine) at a party and on away debate tournaments and other occasions. Minors play drinking games, such as beer pong.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGirlsmom39 September 18, 2015

Mature material

In the first 11 pages it talks about "getting head" jokes, teen drinking, funneling beers through a pool noodle, and the boyfriend walks in on his gir... Continue reading
Parent of a 15 year old Written byDelaneyRuston January 6, 2015

Favorite book!

I am a 13 year old writing on my moms account. I was excited to read this book as soon as I got this and couldn't stop :) It always had me wanting to read... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananafingers June 19, 2015

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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