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The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Published August 27, 2013 by Katerine Tegen

Goodreads Summary: 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 The Beginning of Everything 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 Review: Another novel filled with smart high schoolers—that makes me so happy!! I hope this is a trend because I love seeing brainy characters in my book and not stereotypical ones. The Beginning of Everything is described as witty, and it is very much so. The sarcasm and wit just bleeds out of this book. I found myself laughing out loud at parts, and usually just because a character had the audacity to say something they shouldn’t have.

In The Beginning of Everything, I actually connected more with the secondary characters than the protagonist. They were so well established and had such unique voices while Ezra sounded like any good-0le boy; however, I will say that by making his voice less distinct allowed for him to grow even in his prose. As he found his new, true identity, his voice became to ring out more true. I am not sure if the author did this on purpose or not, but either way it worked!

Oh, and the final pages. Guys, they were so good! Although it felt a bit rushed to me, the lyrical writing got me in the end. Perfect.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Although this book’s main home is in teens’ hands from a classroom, school, or public library, there are definitely parts that can be pulled out to be used in a classroom.

Since the characters are intelligent, many of the conversations have allusions to literature (Mary Oliver, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Frost) or their topics are quite deep (connecting organic chemistry to life, panopticon, Banksy, German insults). Also, there are debate topics that would be so interesting to look into such as imperialism, capitalism, and the economy.

One fun activity that I would definitely pull out of this book is fake debates. When Ezra, Toby, Cassidy, etc. were at their debate tournament, they had fake debates where they had to choose a side of quite silly topics like “Should vampires be allowed to vote?” This would be a great activity to do in classes to work on persuasion and arguments. (However, be careful about actually reading aloud the scene this is in as they also make it a drinking game.)

Discussion Questions: Do you feel like we live in a society similar to the panopticon? [If you don’t know what this is, it is quite fascinating: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon]; Do you think Cassidy made the right choice in the end?; Ezra truly connects with The Great Gatsby because of all the changes his life is going through. What book to you connect with and why?

Flagged: “Her face was inches from mine. I could see the freckles that dusted her nose and the gold flecks in the disquieting blue of her eyes.” (p. 111)

“My admirable opponent argues that vampires do not deserve suffrage, as many great yet misinformed politicians have done before her while calling for the continued marginalization of women, or other minorities.” Cassidy began. “Yet vampires were, at some point human. At what point can a man’s voting rights be revoked, if he is proven to be of rational mind?” (p. 157)

Read This If You Loved: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Kiel, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Paper Towns by John Green

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