The original title for Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything was Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. That's the title I originally saw on Goodreads and the title that initially drew me to this book. Let me tell you, if it had had the abysmal title of The Beginning of Everything from the outset, I wouldn't have even wanted to pick this up. Talk about a bland title. Even my boyfriend, who doesn't read much outside of Stephen King novels, curled his lip at that title when he saw me reading the book.
At first I thought the severed heads thing from the title was just a figure of speech; maybe a metaphor for disconnected, disaffected youth or something. But nope. In the first chapter, the MC recounts the time he and his childhood best friend rode a Disneyland roller coaster and the kid sitting in front of them stood up at an inopportune time and wound up beheaded -- with the MC's best friend holding the head in shock for the duration of the ride.
After reading that first chapter, I was like, "Sign me up, boringly titled book. You've redeemed yourself already."
Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.
The Beginning of Everything is peopled entirely with clichés. The sad, misunderstood male MC. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl he meets and falls head over heels in love with -- BUT SHE HAS A DARK, SECRET PAST. The stereotypically quirky group of "nerds" who belong to the debate club and watch Doctor Who. The Slutty McSlutterson of a cheerleading ex-girlfriend who is villainized for her sexuality. The parents who barely make an appearance. None of these characters ever make it past that initial archetype.
I really can't believe this book. I really can't.
A couple things I can't really articulate enough to write proper paragraphs on:
--The MC, Ezra Faulkner (a very silly name), has a knee injury that shattered his athletic future... but it's never really mentioned as causing him any pain. He walks with a cane most of the time. He cannot play tennis anymore. And yet the most mention we get of how the injury -- which didn't happen very long ago -- affects his day-to-day life is maybe one or two mentions of a dull ache? Maybe one instance where he fancies walking his dog, but can't? I call bullshit. This is the kind of injury that changes your life far beyond not hanging out with your teammate friends anymore.
--The secret, hidden past of the Manic Pixie was WAY TOO EASY to guess. And I am notoriously oblivious and awful at guessing twists. The instant there was a hint of foreshadowing, I was like "Oh, obviously her mom is dead" (not a spoiler, I made that example up). And I was right. Ugh!
--I hate, hate, hate it when bad things happen to animals for no reason. This book gets a thumbs down on that count alone. Also, Ezra's dog. A Standard Poodle, so fairly big. Supposed to be sixteen years old -- which is old for a small dog! -- and still able to run and play fetch? Bullshit. No way.
Aside from the occasional spot of inspired, beautiful prose, this book was dumb.