The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider is your typical YA contemporary fiction. Relationships, bullying, involved-but-not-overly-smothering parents, a gay minor character, etc. The exception to this novel is that it contains moments of brilliance that readers will find heartbreakingly poignant.
For a moment, I let myself imagine what it would be like to go East, where leaves turned golden and snow coated the rooftops, where libraries looked like castles and dining halls were straight out of Harry Potter films. But…I realized that there’s a big difference between deciding to leave and knowing where to go.
Ezra is at the top of his class – in terms of popularity, athletic standing, and grades. It all comes naturally to him, everything from his effortless musculature and wit, to his backhand and straight As. Until he runs from a party after he catches his girlfriend in a lewd act with another tennis player. He is struck by a car thereby ending his tennis dreams. No friend or teammate visits him in the hospital, leaving him lonely and lost. Who is he without his title of Prom King, his varsity letter, or his lunch table in the quad?
Steinback wrote about tide pools and how profoundly they illustrate the interconnectedness of all things folded together in an ever-expanding universe that’s bound by the elastic string of time. He said that one should look from the tide pool to the stars, and then back again in wonder. And maybe things would have been different if I’d heeded his advice….but I didn’t. Instead…the only stars I saw were wearing varsity jackets.
His loneliness abates with the arrival of new girl Cassidy Thorpe, and the re-emergence of his childhood best friend Toby (who’d actually never gone anywhere). Budding friendships with his new group of friends draws Ezra out little by little, and the high school experience begins to feel a bit tired. Just as readers are wondering if something is going to come next, something comes next. And it’s not far-fetched, and it doesn’t make you gasp…it just…is. And isn’t that high school? Isn’t that life? Not everything is dramatic and life-changing, but it something that makes you take pause and start again and move forward. I liked that about The Beginning of Everything.
Teen and adult readers who enjoy contemporary YA fiction. Teen boys, because the male perspective is a unique one. (Well, at least for this lady reader.) It’s not as crass as Winger, but along the same lines.
You won’t walk away from this feeling as distressed or worn out as when you end a Rainbow Rowell novel, but you will feel a little more prepared to take on unexpected events, because they just might be the beginning of something better than what was.