He’s a talented athlete and plays on the varsity tennis team. He’s incredibly popular and has a beautiful girlfriend....moreEzra Faulkner is the golden boy.
He’s a talented athlete and plays on the varsity tennis team. He’s incredibly popular and has a beautiful girlfriend. He’s incredibly charismatic and everyone loves him.
Until tragedy strikes.
While at a party, Ezra catches his girlfriend Charlotte with another guy, and out of anger he chooses to leave the party. While walking down the street, he’s hit by a car. The accident injures him, but more importantly, it turns him into a social outcast. Ezra’s no longer the golden boy: he’s now the crippled, injured outcast.
Robyn Schneider’s debut novel The Beginning of Everything is a story about first love and loss. She lays out the thesis at the end of the first chapter: who do you become, and what do you do, after tragedy defines your life?
Because understanding tragedy is important to Ezra. When he was twelve years old, Ezra’s best friend Toby had his birthday party at Disneyland. Ezra and Toby sat in the back of the Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster. In front of them, a Japanese boy stood up while the roller coaster went underneath a tunnel. His head was decapitated instantly, flying backwards – and Toby, one row behind, caught the boy’s severed head. After that trip to Disneyland, Toby was labeled as a social outcast, ignored by his classmates, remembered only as “that boy who caught a severed head.” And after the Disneyland incident, Ezra and Toby drifted apart, as Ezra became popular and Toby faded into social obscurity.
But now Ezra’s the social outcast. His girlfriend’s broken up with him, he can no longer play varsity tennis due to his shattered knee – and because of that loss, he’s lost most of his popular friends, who also played tennis with him – and his classmates ignore him. So Ezra starts his senior year alone.
But he reconnects with his old friend Toby on the first day of school. They mess around and as a result, are kicked out of a pep rally.
And he meets the new girl, Cassidy Thorpe. She’s beautiful and charming and mysterious. She’s just transferred from a prestigious prep school, and she’s amazing at speech and debate – that is, until she dropped out of debate unexpectedly last year.
Ezra also meets Toby’s friends and fellow debaters. There’s Luke, the film nerd; Sam, the future lawyer; Austin, the graphic designer; and Phoebe, the newspaper editor and Luke’s girlfriend. Ezra falls in with their group, eating lunch with them daily, and even joins the debate team.
And soon Ezra’s a part of the group, attending debate meets, going to floating film festivals and flash mobs, sharing inside jokes. He’s happy with his new friends, and he’s attracted to Cassidy.
But everyone keeps warning him about her – she disappears easily, she destroys relationships, underneath that bubbly exterior is a messed up girl. Ezra ignores their warnings, because he genuinely likes her.
Ezra’s old friends, meanwhile, keep inviting him to hang out with them. They say hi to him at In N Out Burger, invite him to Chipotle, to the Halloween party. And he’s torn between these two worlds – his old world, of popularity and parties, and this new world that he’s created for himself, this quirky social group.
But soon things are looking up for Ezra, though. He and Cassidy start dating, sending flashlight messages across to each other and kissing and fooling around. Ezra has great friends, and he doesn’t feel like a social outcast anymore.
But then Cassidy destroys him emotionally, and Ezra’s shattered.
The Beginning of Everything is overall a strong debut. Schneider’s writing is fantastic, and she nails her character’s dialogue. Her depiction of the high school experience is great, with Ezra feeling like an outcast in his school, the teachers sometimes being thoughtlessly cruel, and the social status of high school, with the underclassmen scurrying from class to class, and the importance of popularity to Ezra’s former friends.
But in the end, this novel is weakened by the quirkiness of its characters.
Cassidy is a stock maniac pixie dream girl. This book has been compared in many ways to John Green, and I think the novel sets out to do the same thing that Green did in his book “Paper Towns:” dismantle the idea of the maniac pixie dream girl as being a romantic and healthy ideal.
From the beginning, Ezra’s warned about Cassidy. She’s impulsive and self-destructive and she’s more messed up than she seems, underneath all the quirkiness and charm. Toby and the other debaters wonder what happened to her – she unexpectedly quit debate, even though she was great at it and often won awards, and seemingly disappeared before reemerging in Eastwood.
It was clear from the beginning that there was something wrong with Cassidy, some sort of mystery that had forced her to quit debate, and while the reveal was hardly surprising, I enjoyed how Schneider connected Cassidy’s story to Ezra’s.
(This is spoiler territory, so scroll down if you don’t want to be spoiled.) (view spoiler)[ The car that hit Ezra – and shattered his leg – was driven by Cassidy’s older brother. He didn’t tell anyone about the accident, but he was injured and the effects from the injury later stopped his heart. (hide spoiler)]
But otherwise, Cassidy as a character was pretty stock and predictable for me. She’s the quirky and smart and funny girl who likes to break all the rules (she disobeys the debate team regulations, sneaks into college classes, she sends messages with flashlights, etc), but she has a dark secret. I will admit, I liked how Schneider showed how broken Cassidy was and how she drove Ezra away, but in the end, Cassidy seemed little more than a cliché to me. And I think that John Green, while “Paper Towns” isn’t my favorite book, more successfully deconstructed the maniac pixie dream girl concept in that novel.
The other characters were all so, so quirky (to the detriment of the characters and to the detriment of the book). On the first page where the debate club kids are introduced, they almost ooze with quirkiness. Luke is introduced as a film club nerd who ran an “Auto-Tune the News”-esque blog; Sam is the president of the Future Republicans club (okay, Sam is probably the least quirky of the bunch), Austin is a graphic designer and designs school apparel and yearbooks and ran an online T-shirt store; and Phoebe is the school news editor.
And the activities that the debate club engages in are also quirky. They go to LA to participate in a flash mob; they have monthly “floating movie clubs” located inside the school after hours; it’s mentioned that the last time they went to LA they saw a three-hour musical about “depressed German teenagers,” and they love comics and Doctor Who. There’s an entire conversation that seems ripped from a ‘90s nostalgia blog, or a Buzzfeed post, where the teens listen to a mix tape and nostalgically remember Nickelodeon programs and Furbys and Tamagotchis. They don’t sound like teens; they sound like 20 or 30 somethings.
And that’s the other issue with the debate club kids. They all sound so grown up, so adult, so mature, not like 17-year-olds.
(My favorite of the debate club members was Phoebe. I really enjoyed the scene where she told Luke off and slapped him in the face at lunch.)
My other issue was with the debate scenes. Full disclosure, I’ve been a member of a debate team and attended many debate meets. The actual debate itself was portrayed well in the novel – the anxious air before the meet started, the rivalries between schools, the inside jokes and stories shared between teammates – but I found the scene where they party with the other debate teams to be contrived.
They’re parting and dancing around this hotel room, which one, hotel rooms are usually small, and doing things like eating baguettes and playing drinking games with other debate teams. It seemed unrealistic and ridiculous (and a bit contrived to get Ezra and Cassidy in the same bed – though they just sleep, and don’t have sex).
My last complaint is again a spoiler, so skip down if you want to remain unspoiled. (view spoiler)[ I found the death of the dog at the end to be contrived and unnecessary. Towards the end of the novel, there are lots of coyote sightings around the area, and Animal Control is on high alert. But after a few days, they decide to call off the hunt. Ezra goes on a walk with his dog to Cassidy’s house. The two of them have a confrontation, and as Ezra turns to leave, his dog is attacked by a coyote. Cassidy and Ezra rush the dog to the hospital, but he doesn’t survive. (hide spoiler)]
At the hospital, Cassidy explains what happened to her brother as they wait. The death seemed like a plot convenience, orchestrated so that Cassidy could explain her story to Ezra and say goodbye to him once and for all. While the scene was heartbreaking, it was contrived.
Overall, The Beginning of Everything is a strong debut. I’m interested to read more books by Schneider, as I was impressed by her writing skills and depiction of the high school experience, though I found the characters to be too quirky for my taste and the plot to be slightly contrived. This book is great for fans of John Green, especially those who appreciate Green’s quirky characters/dialogue and his deconstruction of the maniac pixie dream girl archetype. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I really dislike cancer books. To me, many of them are too dramatic and incredibly predictable – for instance, in some of the books, it seems incredib...moreI really dislike cancer books. To me, many of them are too dramatic and incredibly predictable – for instance, in some of the books, it seems incredibly obvious that one of the characters will die due to cancer. While I have liked a few books that deal with topics of cancer, such as Before I Die and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, most books in this genre I tend to avoid.
However, I very much enjoyed reading Send Me a Sign. Why is this? At a glance, it seems like a typical story about a girl diagnosed with leukemia. But really the story is less about cancer than that it involves cancer . Cancer is never really the main point, and while the treatments and such are discussed, the story is more about how cancer affects people.
Mia is a golden girl. She's got a great group of friends – dubbed the "Calendar Girls" – and a boy who's interested in dating her. She gets great grades, has a great family who's proud of her, and is happy in her life. She has a great friend, Gyver, who she's known for years. All she cares about is having a perfect senior year. Until she starts getting bumps on her leg. Until her mother, worried, sends her to the doctor to have her checked. Until the doctor tells her that she has leukemia. Until Mia realizes that her perfect, golden life is slipping away from her.
See, Mia's less concerned about the cancer than she is concerned about her friends finding out about the cancer. She doesn't want the Calendar Girls to know. If they find out, surely they'll end their friendship with her. And then her perfect life will come apart. Mia's mother, wanting her daughter to have a perfect life, comes up with a plan: Mia will hide her secret from her friends and keep up her perfect façade and they'll never know. Except, as Mia starts treatment and starts feeling sicker, it gets harder and harder to hide her secret from her friends.
What I really loved about this book, like I mentioned before, was how it wasn't about cancer and more about how people are affected by cancer. The book shows how people are affected by the cancer, by the issues going on – for instance, Mia's mother becomes overprotective and Mia's father becomes engrossed in all of the facts about cancer. The book also shows how Mia herself deals with the issue, as she wrestles with the fact that she might die, and the fact that her life has truly changed. It also shows how she deals with the fact that she's lying and hiding from her friends.
While, at the same time, showing how people are affected, the author also shows the actual treatment, as Mia goes through chemotherapy. I really loved how superstitions and charms were woven in through the story. Mia is always searching for signs. A necklace on the ground, a piece of paper she finds – everything means something to her. She frequently reads the horoscopes with her friends and wears a good-luck-charm necklace. And when her world gets turned upside down, she is looking for a sign that everything will be alright, be okay. I really loved the aspect of the story.
And as regarding the plot, I liked how it ended up being more about friends and family than cancer. It was a will-she-or-won't-she scenario as Mia decided whether or not she would tell her friends. The book twisted and turned a few times and I didn't find the story to be predictable, and the ending was perfect, leaving open a few loose ends while wrapping the whole of the story together.
If there was anything I disliked about the book, it was mainly based around the characters and the romance. The Calendar Girls were hard to tell apart from one another, but that might have been done purposefully, since they were so close that they had almost all become cutouts of one another in their friendship. The romance – it was easy to figure out the one that Mia would end up with. However, it was a fun journey and the contrast between Ryan, the jock that Mia has wanted (and has been "dating") and Gyver, her old friend, was interesting.
Tiffany Schmidt has really beautiful writing. Her writing is beautiful, easy to read, and sounds like a teenage girl. She manages to keep in her lovely prose while interjecting a strong voice for Mia. I'm very interested to see where she will go next and I'm very excited to read her next book, Bright Before Sunrise
This book will have lots of appeal to teen girls, and people who liked stories like Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty and books like Before I Die and other books with fun stories and some serious elements. People who dislike cancer books will probably really enjoy this one as well, as it twists the tropes of the cancer genre. (less)
I really love E. Lockhart and how humorous she allows her books to be. Ruby is a hilarious, self-deprecating but not too self-deprecating character, a...moreI really love E. Lockhart and how humorous she allows her books to be. Ruby is a hilarious, self-deprecating but not too self-deprecating character, and these novels have a lot of death and interesting things to say in terms of sexuality and romance.(less)
Ehh...I've really enjoyed all of E. Lockhart's previous novels (especially Ruby and Frankie) but this one was just...ehh. I liked the plot, everything...moreEhh...I've really enjoyed all of E. Lockhart's previous novels (especially Ruby and Frankie) but this one was just...ehh. I liked the plot, everything seemed good, until everything exploded and we ended up with a majorly depressing ending.
My experiences with Feed can be described like this:
People told me to read it. They gushed about M.T Anderson's writing and pointed out that he won a...moreMy experiences with Feed can be described like this:
People told me to read it. They gushed about M.T Anderson's writing and pointed out that he won a Printz Honor and showed me funny snippets on his website and blog, pointed me towards gushing reviews of the titles from critical sources, simply told me that I had to read this book, had to.
I ignored them. I read many other (great) books. Then I was at the library and spotted Feed in the shelves. The copy looked well worn and well used. I read the back, saw those many critical sources and read the interview with the author at the back, which indeed did show his humor. I took the book home.
I brought the book to school to read, as I often finish books during study halls or assigned reading times. I finished the book in a day during study hall.
And I adored it.
Now, I must admit, I am almost ashamed I didn't read it. Is Feed perfect? No, it isn't. But is it chilling and amazing how much of the future Anderson predicted? (Read this article and you'll see how good he predicted different technologies and concepts in the novel.) Heck, yes. And is Feed an impressive book? Yes times a million.
Feed in the essence, is a dystopia though it preceded the influx of dystopian titles by many years. (And this book really shows what a good dystopia can be, and what impressive world building can do.) Titus and his friends are wild, crazy, and adventurous, and always up to a trip to the moon (a vacation hotspot). They interact via feeds, social networking tools in their brain that allow them to communicate with one another, buy things, and get news. While on the moon, their feeds get hacked and malfuctioned. And Titus meets a girl -- Violet, who is willing to resist the feed, to not buy into the social culture that their society has created. Their feeds get fixed, and soon enough they are back to Earth and continuing on their wild, crazy lifestyles. Titus and Violet begin to fall in love, but as Violet resists more and more, her life falls into danger.
The plot sounds exceedingly simple. We have all seen this before -- people resisting and falling in love -- in many different contexts. What really raises the plot above, what makes the book into something that can be critically acclaimed and well-loved, is the satire. The book is a satire. And it is hilarious. Anderson makes fun of our society, of how we act and how we believe and what we are interested in. The satire is really awesome.
But besides this satire, which made me laugh in more than one place, there are the questions. In many critical reviews in professional review journals, the reviewer will state something along the lines of "the author raises many questions on love, life, and religion" (substitute the descriptors of the questions being raised to suit your fancy). Anderson raises many questions, about our media culture and our technology and our over saturated world, how we act and believe and what we think is important. These questions make the book very thoughtprovoking. It took me a while to read the book, and it is fairly short, because of all the questions. I had to stop, think and ponder. The questions make the book fascinating. They make you think and wonder and really think about the media culture that is in our world today.
This combination -- a mixture of satire and questions -- really elevates Feed up to something that is amazing and deserves the many accolades it has recieved.
If I have a qualm on the plot, even with how wonderful and creative it is, my qualm is that I knew what would happen. I predicted the end of the book early on. And I was right. But I didn't mind turning through 300 pages or so just to get to an ending that I had already guessed, because the questions and the satire made me engaged. I wanted to get to the end so I could keep reading the hilarious jokes and the many raised questions.
The characters are impressive -- Titus is strong and smart and his friends -- who really can be counted as one person (and I think that's how they were intended to be) make sense as teenagers in the future. Violet was my favorite, smart and sweet and willing to resist. I worried that she would be an archetype, nothing more than a "rebeling girl", but she was truly an impressive character and what happened to her broke my heart.
Anderson's writing is strong and easy to read, injecting the right amount of humor and seriousness needed for the book. He's a strong writer and I can see why everyone loves his books. I for one am very interested in reading his other books -- I'd tried reading them before and given up. But enjoying this book has made me want to read the rest of his books.
Frankly, I loved this book, and if you are like me and have been holding off on Feed, I have two words for you: READ IT!
This book is a lot different than Flash Burnout but it's still a fun and intriguing read. L. K Madigan definitly had a great start as a YA author an...moreThis book is a lot different than Flash Burnout but it's still a fun and intriguing read. L. K Madigan definitly had a great start as a YA author and it's saddening that she has passed away.
This review has to start with, erm, a bit of a warning.
My name is Paige.
This seems irrelevant at first — it’s simply my name, what my parents decided...moreThis review has to start with, erm, a bit of a warning.
My name is Paige.
This seems irrelevant at first — it’s simply my name, what my parents decided to call me — until you read the book blurb. The main character’s name is…..Paige. Now, first, I have to say I like this — there are hardly ever any main characters named Paige and Paiges in books (when they show up, which is rare) are usually mean, nasty girls.
But this Paige is not!
But she starts out a mean girl.
So right away, I had my assumptions on this book, because obviously SHE HAS MY NAME, and that is COOL and so obviously I should like her, because you know, Paiges gotta stick together!
But even past that first assumption, I really, really enjoyed this book.
At a first, cursory glance, it seems to be a simple, stereotypical “mean girls” story, one that is constantly in the media, something that I’ve remarked on before. But in reality, it is so much more, deeper and richer. Paige knows that what she did was wrong. She’s ashamed of herself. She wishes that she could turn the clock back. And as people point out her brattiness — like, who doesn’t want to go to Paris — she starts to change.
And then there’s the other person, the boy. Ethan, the cute boy who looks like a freshman. He’s really a senior, though, and he really has an attraction for Paige. They have similar characteristics, and he knows he can’t have her. Paige has a boyfriend. But he doesn’t chase her, try to find her or make her love him. And when it comes time for his confession of love, he’s afraid.
And there are the other characters — Miranda, who’s a “rebel teen” but really just wants to get away from her mother; Shanti, who is Indian but has a boyfriend while being studious; Nikki, who is more than she seems — and many more.
I really liked how the characters were different; based on cliches, formed around them, but then changed into something different, something more.
I really love all the things explored through the story. A lot of topics get covered, and it never seems like too much or overbearing.
One of these topics is homosexuality. The characters remark on it many times — they call their friends “gay” and “homo” and the assortment of other crude names given to GLBTQ people. But as the story continues, it starts to become an issue, a problem, and the characters remark on their real standings — do they want gays to be allowed to marry? How do they feel about it? I loved this because it is so in the “right now” — homosexuality and GLBTQ rights are all over the news. But I also love that the author wasn’t afraid to let her characters have stances. Some of them are against gay marriage, and they make their points for why they are against it. Some of the characters are for it, and they too explain their reasons. And then there are the ones in the gray area, neutral and confused. In their hometown, homosexuality isn’t really discussed. I loved this because the author didn’t simply say “gays and lesbians deserve rights” (though there is a positive GLBTQ standing throughout the book, and gay and lesbian people are regarded as deserving rights). It was a really interesting arc to explore.
I also loved the element of writing, the wonder of being unsure if you should write, what the heck you should actually write, if you want to be a writer or a poet or someone who works with writing. This was a great way to see Paige’s true colors, her love for writing and quiet spots.
Backes’ writing is strong too. The voice is marvelous; it seems like Paige’s voice is dripping off the page. She acts and sounds like a real teenager, and she’s a normal kid, with insecurities. The voice really just ads another element to this already impressive book.
I read this book on Netgalley, thanks to the generosity of Candelwick Press, but I will most certainly be buying a copy for my own bookshelf.
Above all, I loved this book.
I received this book as an advanced readers’ copy from Candlewick Press. Under the FTC guidelines I did not receive any monetary amount or other bribe in return for a copy of this book.(less)