Sixteen year old Ezra is a star on the high school tennis team, has the most popular girl in the junior class for a girlfriend, and will probably be voted homecoming king in the next few days. He is living the life he has heard about. Then, the paradigm shifts and the girl is having sex with someone else and as Ezra leaves the party and her betrayal, a car crashes violently into his Volvo shattering his leg and his identity and his role in the play he's been handling with quiet talent. His sense of self is gone.
The tennis team is a thing of the past and so are his so-called friends. The friend he left behind in seventh grade, Toby, walks up to re-establish himself in Ezra's life and a new girl, Cassidy Thorpe, appears in his Spanish class.
Ezra doesn't know who he is supposed to be. All the scripts that have been floating around him don't work here any more. His friends aren't sitting at the "it" table and the girl who is catching his eye doesn't dress according to Glamour magazine.
Was Ezra really living a life? Cassidy hands Ezra a quote at one point in the story and asks him wht he will do with his wild life? Who are the losers in this story? Who are the ones who have recognized their gift..their wild life...and are adventuring forward trying it out with integrity and figuring out for themselves what really matters?
This is a story that mocks, twists, disappoints, shocks and ultimately delivers the best gift any human can give to another. You will have a hard time turning the last page and setting the book down knowing you won't be able to eavesdrop on the conversations of Toby, Phoebe, Luke, Cassidy and Ezra. Those girls wearing the lingerie and high-heeled shoes are merely the advertisements inserted occasionally in the program. Distractions that are short-lived though loud and flashy. The real story and the value lie over at that other table in the cafeteria where teens are creating something for themselves called a life... through debate and film... and giving back a time or two.
Written with a sense of hope veiled in mockery THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING holds us on a taut line as we wait to see if there is a chance for us after all and if there is something more than the table with the popular people with their self-confidence and magnetism. Here lie questions with a few answers, a serving or two of courage, some smart characters who have learned to see beyond the surface of things, and the all-important connections between us and the things that matter and between people who care for each other the way we need them to.
Ages 14 and up (trauma and sex) 978-0062217134 352 pages
"'In the panopticon, you might be under constant observation, except you can never be sure whether someone is watching or not, so you wind up following the rules anyway.' "'But how do you know who's a watcher and who's a prisoner?' I asked, pulling into the empty parking lot. "'That's the point. Even the watchers are prisoners.'" "Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" -- Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day" (1990) "It takes two to make an accident." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY "I'm not the first person to realize we displace our emotions onto animals." -- Anne Beattie (the then-lit instructor under whom I studied The Great Gatsby 40 years ago as a college freshman) After his life is upended by a crippling car accident that takes place near the end of his junior year of high school, an accident that leaves him no longer able to play tennis -- and no longer assuming that his college choice will be dictated by whichever schools recruit him -- popular jock Ezra Faulkner falls back in with a childhood friend he long ago abandoned. Toby has since become one of the cheeky and brainy students involved in speech and debate tournaments. And Toby already knows the mysterious and beautiful new girl at school. Cassidy Thorpe had been an unbeatable competitor in debate competitions before inexplicably disappearing from the debate scene, leaving her exclusive boarding school, and winding up living at home in the gated community across the park from Ezra's home. Ezra is conned into joining the debate team (He may be a now-former jock but, it turns out, he's no dumb jock.) and, in due course, despite Toby’s warnings, Ezra and Cassidy become a couple. "I still think that everyone's life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. That moment is the catalyst -- the first step in the equation. But knowing the first step will get you nowhere -- it's what comes after that determines the result." THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING, a dynamite coming-of-age tale about romance and tragedy, is told in the first-person by Ezra, looking back from his freshman year at college. It is smart and funny (You might not think so when you read the horrific beginning of the story, but trust me on this.), and is, by far, one of the most memorable books for young adults that I have read this year. This is one of those books that is hardcore contemporary YA, yet is so well-written and literary that I have several essay questions drafted in my head that I'd be posing if I were a high school English teacher with the latitude to teach it. I was talking to friends last night about the author's quoting Mary Oliver, and how perfect the quote fits into the story. And about the panopticon. These ideas about knowing who we are, and deciding whether who we choose to become is going to come from our hopes and dreams or from our fears and beliefs about what is expected of us by others, are reasons why Ezra's tale is one that I'd wish I'd gotten to read in high school. Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (http://richiespicks.com/)