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I’d planned to read Northanger Abbey on the train, but the copy I checked out from the library was graffitied with studenty notes, entire passages underlined in pen. Fists of fury to everyone who marks up library books. Fortunately I always travel with two books, sometimes three. Okay, four.

I had high hopes for Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything. The lofty title alone peaked my interest enough. It’s gotten a lot of mileage from the alternate title, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, but don’t get too excited. There’s only one severed head and it’s after the fact.

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Ezra Faulkner has this theory that every person has one tragedy that changes them and influences everything that comes after. For his friend, tragedy took the form of catching a severed head on a Disneyland ride. Ezra’s was a car. By the end of his junior year of high school Ezra was captain of the tennis team and prom king, embarassingly popular. Moments after he catches his equally popular, though not embarassingly so, girlfriend Charlotte on her knees with some college guy at a party, a hit and run leaves him gimpy. And single.

With sports wiped from his life, senior year begins and Ezra is relatively friendless but its more like he ostracizes himself because he doesn’t fit into that life with those friends anymore. Enter the smart weird new girl, Cassidy Thorpe.

I enjoyed reading this at first. There are some nice quiet moments when you’re just there with Ezra as Cassidy opens his mind to the possibilities outside of the life he always assumed he’d roll into – sports scholarship, frat president and eventually becoming a doctor or lawyer with a nice home and weekend trips to Tahoe. Cassidy is a debate champion who quotes obscure poetry and views a safe life as a Panopticon to be escaped. Here my eyes wouldn’t stop rolling. These are kids who get cars for their birthdays, shop with dad’s credit card and have a maid come on Tuesday. We can only hope they escape this prison intact.

It was as though I’d gone off on epic adventures, chased down fireworks and buried treasure, danced to music that only I could hear, and had returned to find that nothing had changed except for me.

I liked the placement of a high concept premise with a smaller story, but the book doesn’t deliver on its promise. I finished and realized I didn’t like it. Described as a tragic love story, what you get is a sometimes-bad-things-happen story. Judging by the reviews, I may be one of the few readers to not like this book, so don’t let me dissuade you. Sometimes a book and I just don’t hit it off.

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