Book Review: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider
Please note: Apparently, the title of this book has been changed to The Beginning of Everything. Goodreads also suggests that there is not currently a cover. I reviewed a digital galley from Edelweiss. The current release date is August 27th from Katherine Tegen.
Ezra Faulkner believes that everyone’s live is just waiting for just one good tragedy. His occurs right before prom his junior year when he is in a massive car accident that ends his promising tennis career and takes away everything that made him who he was. So he begins his senior year lost and adrift, only to reunite with his former best friend Toby. Toby’s tragedy occurred in middle school at Disneyland when a severed head landed in his lap on one of the rides. As far as openings – and tragedies – go, this one was pretty awesome. Then Cassidy shows up and the two of them are trying to heal from their tragedies – although for a long time Cassidy’s is in fact unknown – and the two are falling in love, maybe. It’s hard for Ezra to know because Cassidy is an enigma.
Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a classic coming of age story full of pathos, with the first and third parts definitely holding your attention more strongly than the middle. The thing that kept me reading was the characters: I definitely wanted to know what was happening with Ezra, Cassidy and Toby.
I really enjoyed Toby and Ezra’s friendship. In fact, Toby is a pretty amazing character the way he reaches out to Ezra in his time of need even though he is the “Duckie” of our story. Toby is strong, loyal and kind of all around awesome. And the best part: here is a male character that it is hinted may be contemplating his sexuality and it doesn’t dominate the story, it is just a fact of Toby’s life and he is pretty okay with it.
Ezra is at first your stereotypical popular jock who has everything taken away from him in an instant. It is interesting to see him wrestle with his identity, his place in the school hierarchy and more as a result of this one moment in his life. (As a total side note, I find it interesting that one of the trends in 2013 seems to be teens that come from a life of privilege given today’s current economic environment. Ezra comes from privilege, as does the main male character in When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney and several other titles that I have recently read.)
In some ways Cassidy is a cliche, she is a championship debater who walks around quoting poetry and philosophy. In ways reminiscent of a John Green character, Cassidy reminds us that there are wicked smart teens out there. But Cassidy isn’t all that she initially appears to be and most readers will guess the reason for her pain, but it is none the less compelling.
There were some interesting tidbits here, but this is an optional purchase for smaller libraries I think. Some readers may get bogged down in the middle, waiting for something besides talking to happen. For others, this will remind them in ways of John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. No pat answers, just a real life look at falling in love, finding oneself and having your heart broken. Please note: there is sex and drinking in this title, for mature teens. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Huge spoiler alert, because I know some people care: A beloved dog dies and you will cry.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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