Monday, 12 August 2013
Review: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's
Released: August 15th, 2013
Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them - a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His own tragedy waited until he had everything to lose - in one night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra's knee, his athletic career, and his perfect life. No longer part of the popular crowd, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters Cassidy Thorpe. Intelligent, effortless and wonderfully weird, she is unlike anyone Ezra's ever met before. Together they discover flash mobs, buried treasure, secret movie screenings and a poodle with a questionable history. But as Ezra dives into new friendships and new love, he is forced to ask: if you've managed to survive disaster, what happens when it strikes again?
Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is one of the best YA books I've read this year. It's titled The Beginning of Everything in the US, but I think our UK title fits it much better! Right from the start I was drawn into Robyn Schneider's almost lyrical writing, and I knew I was reading something worth talking about. It has been likened to John Green's books, though for me personally I think it's better. I basically read it in one sitting, unable to put it down until, like Ezra, I figured out what was going on and if he would be ok.
Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is all about Ezra, 17-year-old tennis star and the most popular guy in school. His life is going exactly as it should until one day when he's in a car accident and damages his knee, requiring a cane to walk. His whole life changes in the blink of an eye; suddenly his friends aren't there and he's no longer the sports golden boy. Then he meets new student Cassidy Thorpe, and his life begins to change again.
I really liked Ezra, he's the kind of guy I would have talked to at school. His cane doesn't hinder him as such, but he's always self-conscious of it and, because of his own situation, he becomes a lot more tolerant and kind towards people he used to ignore or taunt. He's thoughtful and thankful, lucky to be alive and doing the best he can with the luck he's been given. When Cassidy storms into his life, he realises that he isn't the only person in the world who's broken, and he certainly isn't the only person who needs help moving on. Cassidy shows him that there's still life out there, albeit in different places, like the debate team. "Life goes on" is a cliched, overused phrase, but it's one that's true. Time stops for nothing and no-one, as Ezra finds out.
This book is about lost identity, about finding yourself and finding where you belong in the world. It's a bittersweet coming of age story that left me feeling happy and sad all at the same time, and made me realise that nothing is too big to overcome, no matter how life-changing or devastating it is. It's about loss and hope and dreams, but mostly it's about living rather than just existing. It's a brilliant, thought-provoking book and would make a memorable teen movie. I'm sure I'll be revisiting it in the future, if only for the beautiful writing that perfectly captures youth and all its severed heads and broken hearts.