Junior Ezra Faulkner has it all — the grades, the friends, the girls, captain of his high school tennis team. But in one evening, all of these things are ripped away from him. After catching his girlfriend in bed with another guy, Ezra attempts to flee a party in his car. The result is his expensive new car is totalled and Ezra finds himself recovering from the accident (both physically and emotionally) and never able to play tennis again.
Where he was once the lead candidate for homecoming king, Ezra now finds himself entering his senior year no longer sure of just who he is, what his future holds or who exactly his friends are.
Ezra finds himself drifting back to his estranged, debate team captain friend Toby. The two fell onto different social paths after a disastrous trip to DisneyLand while the two were in middle school. Ezra also finds himself drawn his high school’s new student (but old debate nemesis of Toby) Cassidy Thorpe. The two begin an unlikely friendship that soon begins to blossom into something more, even if Ezra always feels like Cassidy is holding something back from him.
Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is one of those rare young adult novels that doesn’t pull any punches and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, she pulls the rug out from under you. Ezra doesn’t go from popular guy to social outcast over the course of the novel. In fact, he’s able to straddle the line between his two potential social spheres fairly well without glorifying or vilifying one or the other. Just as Ezra’s athletic friends are willing to drink to excess, we also see that the debate squad will drink to excess. The party and the surroundings may be different, but it’s still teenagers acting like teenagers.
In all of this, we see Ezra slowly exploring more of Cassidy’s world and discovering things about her. The two begin to fall in love (the romance is authentically handled by Schneider and rings true for most of the novel) until Ezra invites her homecoming and a Cassidy has a sudden change of character and heart.
The Beginning of Everything is an apt title for this wonderful written, compelling and authentic feeling young adult novel. Schneider doesn’t pull any punches and the final few chapters and their revelations are both heart-breaking and earned. The book has haunted me on some level since I finished reading it and found out the truth between why Cassidy wants so desperately to leave her former life as queen of the debate world behind.