Picture me doing cartwheels, waving sparkly pompoms, and hopping around like a gleeful, demented cheerleader. If you envision all of that, you might have an inkling of how excited I am about The Beginning of Everything.
I can’t stop smiling, and I’m all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ve been looking for a book like this for a long time; when I read This is What Happy Looks Like, Eleanor & Park, and The Fault in Our Stars, this is the book I was hoping to get.
The idea behind The Beginning of Everything is that adversity can be a catalyst that changes our lives for the better, a whetstone that hones us into something sharper. It hurts you, yes, and it’s certainly unpleasant, but adversity forges you into something better and stronger than you were before. As Ezra Faulkner states in the beginning of the book:
“My own tragedy[…]waited to strike until I was so used to my good-enough life in an unexceptional suburb that I’d stopped waiting for anything interesting to happen. Which is why, when my personal tragedy finally found me, it was nearly too late. I had just turned 17, was embarrassingly popular, earned good grades, and was threatening to become eternally unextraordinary.”
For Ezra, tragedy comes in the form of a crippling car accident that takes him from star athlete and king of the school to a confused 17-year-old who no longer knows where he fits in the world. The accident forces him to re-evaluate his identity, his friendships, and his future. He must figure out what’s left after his defining characteristic – tennis star – has been stripped away. The answer is: a hell of a lot more than Ezra would’ve expected.
Ezra is the total package, the male protagonist I’ve been searching for since what feels like the beginning of time. He’s popular, good-looking, and athletic but avoids being the dumb-jock stereotype; he’s the sort of guy who’s popular because people respect him, not because they fear him. I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing this is.
Ezra is an all-around good guy who’s friends with whoever he wants to be friends with, doesn’t treat the “little people” like crap, and has a backbone and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. He makes witty puns, can enjoy parties without being a drunken idiot, is nuts about his standard poodle Cooper, and can laugh at himself. Also, did I mention he’s intelligent, funny, and a bit of a smart-ass? What more can a girl want?
Cassidy, the girl Ezra falls for in the book, is great, too. She’s got this alternative/hipster vibe that initially made me wary; I was afraid she’d end up fitting into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, which I wouldn’t have been able to handle (I have an abiding hatred for MPDG’s that started with John Green’s Looking for Alaska). However, Cassidy ended up being fun and likable as opposed to annoying and cliche.
In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters in The Beginning of Everything. The kids Ezra starts hanging out with after his accident are witty and smart, with a peculiar nerdy charm and lots of clever repartee. I wanted to be included in the debate team crew, with their crazy hotel-room parties, “positive vandalism,” classic movie marathons in the deserted school, and other hijinks. The camaraderie they share is wonderful, and the banter and teasing among Ezra’s new friends made me nostalgic for my own high school days.
The characters may be the best part of The Beginning of Everything, but rest assured that there’s also a tight plot and a great story arc. Something I found refreshing is that this isn’t a book about how a bad person is made into a better one through the transforming power of love. Rather, it is a story about a good person being pushed to become an even better person through his own power. I really, really appreciated that.
Not everything in this book is happy-go-lucky, but I finished it feeling hopeful and optimistic. I want you to feel this way, too, so please go read The Beginning of Everything! And then let’s discuss!