Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

beginning of everything

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

After finishing the galley for this book, I was surprised to find that the title has been changed.  I think it’s an unfortunate choice, since Severed Heads, Broken Hearts was a title that really reflected what the book is about.  I will also try to cope with the sunny yellow of the new cover, something that also jars me compared to the muted colors of the original cover.  But enough with my confusion, on to the real review!

Ezra was one of the popular kids at school.  Captain of the tennis team, he struggled to keep his sarcastic humor from confusing his teammates.  Then in one moment, his entire life changed.  Leaving a party after finding his girlfriend “entertaining” another boy, he was struck by a car and his entire athletic career disappeared in an instant.  Now he has to walk with a cane, has lost his girlfriend entirely, and also lost touch with his group of friends.  None of them came to visit him in the hospital or at home during his recovery.  So the first day of school after the accident has him wearing all black, pale from being indoors all summer, and sitting by himself in the front row of the bleachers since he can’t climb any higher without being a spectacle.  His childhood best friend sits next to him, someone who has also known tragedy, and who is no longer friends with Ezra.  But tragedies do strange things, close some options and open others.  The question is whether Ezra has the courage to reinvent himself.  The hot redhead doesn’t hurt things either.

Told in the voice of a John Green novel with intelligence and lots of humor, this book hooks you from the very first with its tale of a beheading at Disney World.  Schneider writes with a great deal of confidence here, taking readers on a journey of rediscovery that involves debate teams, rivalries, jealous ex-girlfriends, and lots of fun along the way.

Schneider has written teens who read like real people.  They are all complex, interesting and unexpectedly tangible.  Even the support characters are funny and intriguing, leading me to want to know more about them as well.  Though readers may see the ending coming, it is entirely satisfying to see it play out.  Schneider does not back away from tragedies, embracing them instead as moments of change and courage. 

Strong writing, great characters and plenty of puns make for a book that teens should love, no matter what the title is.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss.

I Wish I Had… by Giovanna Zoboli

i wish i had

I Wish I Had… by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

Originally published in Italy, this thoughtful picture book takes children on an exploration of different types of animals, looking at some of their unique abilities.  Blackbirds can see every blade of grass with their sharp eyes.  Tigers can walk almost soundlessly through the jungle.  Lemurs have tails that let them swing through the high branches.  Whales can fill the ocean with their songs.  Done in pairs of animals with each line beginning with “I wish,” this book is poetic and rich.

Zoboli writes in verse here that has a gentle rhythm and repetitive structure that is particularly soothing and warm.  Through it all, the skills of the animals that are mentioned are all perceptive and sensory, all leading to better understand of one’s world or expressing oneself.  It is peaceful and has a great inclusive and unifying feel.

A large part of the success of this book are the incredible illustrations by Mulazzani.  Her art has a timelessness about it, thanks to the worn texture of the paint in places.  That quality plays against the modern lines of her art, creating a synthesis that is dynamic and invites readers to look more closely.

Perfect for bedtime with its quietness, this book could also be used very nicely for poetic exercises where children look for admirable qualities in animals and write their own poems of appreciation and wonder.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.