Severed Heads, Broken Hearts
(a.k.a. The Beginning of Everything)
by Robyn Schneider
This book was kind of a letdown for me. I've been dying to read it for ages and I'd seen so many good reviews of it so I was expecting it to be amazing and it just...wasn't.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?
It wasn't an awful book, and I do understand where those glowing reviews are coming from...but while I get why they'd think those things, I just wasn't feeling it. There was a lingering feeling of frustration that I just couldn't shake throughout the story, like I kept waiting for it to get awesome, but I ended it with more negative opinions of it than positive.
I'm going to break this down into parts, because my thoughts are all muddled up (please note though: most of the following isn't "This is why this book is bad." It's meant more as, "This is why it's not as good as I expected."):
Let's start with the main one. At worst, I didn't like Ezra. At best, I was mostly indifferent to him. And I can't say much more about him because anything more detailed would require many spoilers and I'm trying to keep this spoiler-free.
Cassidy. I didn't like her. At all. She was like this blend of Alaska and Margo (two of John Green's main female characters), only more pretentious, judgemental and just...kind of annoying.
There's this character on a TV show I watch (River Song on Doctor Who) and for such a long time it felt like the writer was trying too hard to make her seem like this awesome, mysterious woman that we're supposed to love just because he was telling us to--like entire conversations and scenes were constructed purely so she could say a witty line and it felt like she was being forced on us instead of just...allowing her to be a fully fleshed out character who would grow, and grow on the audience. And that's kind of exactly how Cassidy came across to me and I just couldn't like her no matter how hard I tried and she got less and less likeable as the story progressed.
Toby and Phoebe and Sam and Austin were all awesome, I loved them and they're one of the main things that kept me reading. And the dog, I did kind of like the dog.
Ezra's ex and his former friends...they're just stereotypes. It's like his ex was portrayed as a nasty, popularity-obsessed airhead with nothing going for her except for her looks and that just annoyed me. Like, was she written that way to try and make Cassidy seem better by comparison? Because honestly, it just made Ezra look even worse because he actually had an 8 month relationship with her and if she was so awful, what does that say about him?
The book was written as if she came up with an idea and tried to write it as if she were John Green's ghost writer (she even litters the story with references to the panopticon in a way that was annoyingly similar to the labyrinth references in LfA only not as awesome). It was like she was trying to mimic his writing style but never quite pulling it off as well as he does (which is the main issue really--if she did it as well or better, then it wouldn't have bothered me as much).
The author herself described the book as a cross between Paper Towns and The Great Gatsby...and it was obvious she tried for that, but it fell short. Like the manic pixie dream girl thing--Paper Towns is written to basically deconstruct that and I think it does it pretty well, but this didn't do that at all for me (Cassidy felt like a MPDG from start to finish and one page of being told that she isn't doesn't cancel out an entire novel of being shown that she is).
It was definitely well written and there were a few quotes I liked, but it just felt too derivative of John Greens writing style for my tastes with a lot of pop culture references thrown in.
The only things that really felt distinctly Robyn Schneider were scenes made up of things she's already made youtube videos about (like funny German insults) and all that did was make the character seem more like the author than the character (didn't help that the way she's described sounds like the author). I suppose that's one of the drawbacks of being familiar with an authors online presence before reading their books.
The humour in the book felt a bit too forced/trying too hard too...some books are effortlessly funny, this wasn't one of them.
It was just really bland. I genuinely did not give a damn whether they got together or not (which is rare for me). I didn't buy that she really cared about him or that he loved her, it just felt very flat. There was no spark. If anything, I didn't like them together because it felt like Cassidy was trying to change him and judging him if he didn't become the kind of person she wanted him to be and liked the kind of things she liked (there's even a scene where she takes him shopping in a thrift store and tells him he has to change his look).
I'm not sure if we were supposed to like them together or want them together, but I didn't.
Sounded awesome from the summary, not quite so awesome in the execution of it. The twist was predictable and the most interesting parts of the story barely played a part in it (the debate thing, his rekindled friendship with Toby).
Basically, it had potential but for me it just fell short of being good in nearly every aspect of the story. There is other little issues I had with the book but this is getting too long and the things mentioned above are the main ones.
I do still recommend you check out the book though if it sounds interesting to you, because it really isn't a bad book and plenty of people think it's fantastic so you might be one of them, it just didn't work for me personally.
I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. But here are a couple of 4 or 5 star reviews if you want to see a different opinion.