Publisher: Simon &Schuster UK.
Paperback, 288 pages.
Release date: August 15th 2013.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
After witnessing his girlfriend in a “very friendly” position with a guy who is definitely not him, closely followed by a catastrophic car accident that shatters his leg along with his pro Tennis hopes, Ezra Faulkner returns to school for senior year, cast into social oblivion, a shadow of his former self. Ezra believes that everyone suffers a defining tragedy: it appears that his has just occurred.
But this new tragic self might have its own appeal, especially after he meets the clever, oddly sexy Cassidy Thorpe, a girl who launches him into a series of transformative adventures that help Ezra learn the truth about tragedy: unlike lightning, it can and will strike the same place twice.
Filled with wit and humour, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider is a brilliant reinvention of everything we think we know about the young adult contemporary genre. One part frank, two parts funny, it's a stunning display of how to get a character-driven plot just right.
Ezra Faulkner thought he was happy. He was the school's tennis star, a real king of the court. He was the boyfriend of one of the most popular girls in school and anyone who was anyone knew his name. But after a car accident forcibly removes his golden boy halo, he has to take a look around him without the help of its tinted glow. None of his so-called friends visited him when he was in hospital wondering if he'd ever walk again. None of them understands that the car accident didn't just change the direction of his summer - swapping parties for surgeries and dates for therapy sessions - it's changed him for life.
An unlikely band of new friends come to his rescue - led by the hilarious Toby. He and Ezra were inseparable before their friendship was swallowed up by the divide between the popular and the rejected. I loved Toby, who was the most fleshed out of the debate club rebels, but I would have really liked to have seen more of Phoebe, too.
Another newcomer in Ezra's life is Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy embodies so much of what Ezra missed during his days at the jocks' table: she's passionate, she's carefree and she seems real. The more Ezra gets to know her, however, the more he falls in love with her wildness, the more he begins to understand that if there's anything Cassidy is not, it's real. She's the shadow of a person she used to be.
The romance between Cassidy and Ezra was what made this book for me. It had the spontaneity of teenage love as well as the slow-burn feel of a very powerful relationship; it was more than the sum of its parts. It was cute and physical and beautiful and enigmatic all at the same time.
I expected a lot from this book and it didn't disappoint. Given its premise it could easily have become preachy, but the poetic artistry of the plot structure is pitch-perfect. Foreshadowing is key and eagle-eyed readers will eat up the trail of clues which eventually lead to what is, to say the least, a heart-wrenching conclusion. A few early brand-littered pages aside, the writing style flows well and comes into its own as time goes on and philosophy begins to influence Ezra's narrative more and more. Ezra's a smart guy and he knows it - I loved that! He never allows himself to be pushed into a stereotype and that, I think, is one of this book's strongest messages of all.
In short: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is easy to follow and hard to put down. It has one of the best female writer/male protagonist partnerships I've ever seen and it reads like an off-the-beaten-track indie movie; it's original and radiant, with a great cast and a philosophical flourish that will please any reader.
(On another note, I will mention that this book is being published as The Beginning of Everything in the US, a title which I think fits the contemporary category more. Believe it or not, but I thought Severed Heads, Broken Hearts was a zombie novel akin to Warm Bodies before I looked into it further! For anyone hesitating for reasons like this, don't - this really is a brilliant book - worthy of a one-sitting read.)
|Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is published as The Beginning of Everything in the US.|