Review: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts – Robyn Schneider

Release Date: September 1st 2013
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 335
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Synopsis: 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 career as a jock, 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.

Together, Ezra and Cassidy discover flash mobs, buried treasure, secret movie screenings, and a poodle that might just be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby. 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?

With lyrical writing, nerdy humor, and realistic romance, Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a story about how difficult it is to play the part people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

Review: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, also known as The Beginning of Everything, is an amazing contemporary YA read, filled with tragedies, friendships, self-discovery and heartache.

I will admit, when I first heard that this book had two titles, I was intrigued. And then when I found out vast different between the titles, I thought that surely one of the titles was way off base with the story – I mean really, one title is about the beginning of everything, and the other is about severed heads! But, let me say, I can see the reason for both of these titles, and funnily enough, the cover of The Beginning of Everything directly relates to the title, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts – even though you would not think so. But, my personal favourite title, is Severed Heads, Broken Hearts (and trust me, I didn’t think I would say that): this title is representative of the meaning of the beginning of everything, but in a much more poignant way (I know, the words severed heads and poignant shouldn’t be used together, but it’s true).

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts follows Ezra Faulkner as he faces his life – a life that he had not planned for. At 17, life for Ezra was great – he was king of his school, popular beyond belief, had the perfect home-coming girlfriend and was destined for great things through his athletic ability. Then one night, his whole life is turned upside down by a car accident – and in that one single incident, he loses his future academic and athletic options, his friends, and his status as “golden boy”.

No longer fitting in with the popular crowd, Ezra finds himself back with his childhood friend Toby, and his group of misfits – which includes the new girl – Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone that Ezra has ever met; she is quirky, confusing, intelligent, challenging and mysterious. Cassidy is  effortless, confident and sassy, but yet, it is not clear why she has suddenly transferred to his school and what mystery surrounds her sudden decision to not defend her debating title. As time passes, Ezra finds himself becoming less interested in his old life, and more himself when he is around Cassidy, Toby and the other “nerds”. The charm of this story is that there are many relatable experiences and journeys throughout the book, and although there are times of despair, the story itself is not depressing.

This book is extremely witty, in that real-life sarcastic type of way. The realism in the humour of this story is something that I really enjoyed, and I found this was one of the main reasons I could connect to the characters (even secondary characters). The other thing that stands out about this book is the simple complexity of human emotions shown in its characters. Although there are certain tragedies within the storyline, the focus is not on these, but in fact how the characters deal with the aftermath of such tragedies by finding the strength to create a new life, creating new friendships, connecting with people on different levels, accepting that a tragedy does not define you, and most importantly, believing in yourself.

The characters in Severed Heads, Broken Hearts are amazing, and each bring a different quality, and insecurity, to the story. And the humour they brought to this story was engaging; I have to admit that I loved the Harry Potter references and even the subtle digs at Twilight. But amongst the humour are displays of real characteristics – strengths, weakness, sense of belonging. Toby, I have to say was my favourite secondary character. He has suffered a pretty traumatic experience, which he has had to relive through constant teasing, but he was a stronger person for it. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, he was comfortable with who he was, he is funny, and even though he had reason not to be, he remained a loyal friend to Ezra.

There are multiple things that I really loved about this book, and one of those things is that you jump straight into the story – and Robyn Schneider doesn’t hold back either – my jaw was hanging on the floor by page 3. Another thing that I loved is that it reflects the fact that although life is rough, and sometimes those around you may give you the spark for you to be who you need to be, but they cannot be the fire for you.

Severed Head, Broken Hearts is honest, hilarious, sad, sweet, devastating, empowering and forthright. What I loved about this book really boils down to the fact it is real: life is not a fairytale, sometimes tragedy strikes, and sometimes you are chasing the wrong thing – and sometimes you need to stop existing, and you need to start living.

Quotes:

“Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spend a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”

“I wondered what things what things became when you no longer needed them, and I wondered what the future would hold once we’d gotten past our personal tragedies and proven them ultimately survivable.”

“History is filled with fictional people.”

“You have this maddening little smile sometimes, like you’ve just thought of something incredibly witty but are afraid to say it in case no one gets the joke.”

“But we’re the ones who choose, in the end, how people see us. And I’d rather be misremembered. Please, Ezra, misremember me.”

What do you think?

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