The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider


When I found out the generic title of The Beginning of Everything, was originally Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, I was totally disappointed!  I actually read this book a few months back, and had to re-read the synopsis to remember…oh the one with the theme park decapitation!  The title of Severed Heads would have made it direct and memorable.

So while it does begin with a gruesome death, it ends up being a story about friendships in high school.  Along with that, popularity and individuality issues arise. The story is very character driven, focusing on the once popular Ezra Faulkner as he honestly and painfully explores a new life, with new friends, that help set him on a path of self- acceptance.

Although very little happens plot-wise, some readers may be able to guess the ‘big reveal’ that pieces Cassidy (Ezra’s new love interest) and Ezra together.  I thought it was an overly nice coincidence that wraps everything up. This coincidence leads to the relationship’s demise, and it’s a love or hate ending.   I thought the breakup was honest and real, but I hated the coyote scene. I thought it served absolutely no purpose.

Overall, an OK read with a good take away message for teens.  While I wasn’t super impressed, check out some of the starred reviews, The Beginning of Everything has received:


Starred Reviews:

“Here are teens who could easily trade barbs and double-entendres with the characters that fill John Green’s novels…subtle turns of phrase make reading and rereading this novel a delight.”  – Kirkus (Starred Review)

“This thought-provoking novel about smart kids doing interesting things will resonate with the John Green contingent, as it is tinged with sadness, high jinks, wry humor and philosophical pondering in equal measures.”  – Booklist (Starred Review)

“An engrossing romance in which tragedy brings two teens together, then threatens to tear them apart…Schneider shows remarkable skill at getting inside her narrator’s head as his life swings between disaster and recovery.”  – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing. 


Happy (early) Valentines Day! If you are without a date, you can always spend the night with a reliable book boyfriend.  Or, check out TSWSYL if you share in Elise’s love of music. ♥

I devoured TSWSYL in two sittings.  I was so caught up in Elise’s story that I never felt like I was reading. Immediately, I was able to connect to Elise’s real and relatable character.  Elise struggles to fit in with her classmates, and spends a summer trying to learn how to be ‘cool’.  Unfortunately, her doubts and insecurities become too much to bear and she turns to self-cutting.  Luckily, music enters her life and the story begins to change from heartbreaking to inspiring. Elise finds her true passion in being a DJ, and slowly begins to accept her true self.  My friend has a tattoo that reads, ‘music mends broken hearts’ and I think it’s definitely true in Elise’s case.   In addition to the music, an interesting cast of characters (all with their own faults) help Elise realize her potential.  Although I doubt a few hours of practice can turn anyone into an amazing DJ (especially at 16), I am willing to overlook this.

Overall, I adored this contemporary, coming of age novel. It is powerful, and emotional. Readers are reminded to discover and embrace themselves and find comfort in the power of music. Don’t forget to check out the recommended indie dance song tracks listed in the back! I’m listening to ‘Come on Eileen’ as I write this review.  TSWSYL is my favourite 2014 read, thus far.  Pick it up today!

Review: Skinny by Donna Cooner

Goodreads: Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it.

But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own.


Expected publication: October 1st 2012 by Scholastic

First things first–I’m really hoping that the publishers listen to us reviewers by replacing their cover model.  The model in no way represents Ever (even at her lowest weight).  This book is all about loving yourself the way you are, and it’s such a shame that the first impression and overall selling image is of a non-curvy girl.

I also could have done without the overdone Cinderella plot (with the two stepsisters, stepmother and all!) Although Cooner adds issues of self-esteem and body image into the mix, there is still the classic story running throughout the entire book.    It is the inclusion of Skinny (a voice inside of Ever’s head) that differentiates the book from others.  Even though Skinny isn’t a real person, she might as well be for overweight teen Ever.  As obesity rates climb, many readers will able to relate to Ever as they too, likely experience a sort of ‘Skinny’ that influences their daily lives.  When Ever undergoes risky gastric bypass surgery, I think Cooner did a good job at not glamourizing the surgery.  Information about the surgery is given in a non-preachy way and both the good and bad effects (physical/emotional) are presented.  It’s interesting to note that in the author’s acknowledgements, Cooner discloses that like Ever, she too underwent gastric bypass surgery.  This real life experience undoubtedly helped to create the emotional character of Ever.

Overall, gastric bypass will unlikely be a viable option for most readers, and I do wish that Cooner made Ever more thoughtfully consider the likelihood of complications and death. I feel like it was an easy fix.  However, as mentioned, many readers will be able to relate to ‘Skinny’ and the take away message about loving yourself and being confident in your abilities always serves as a great reminder to teens.

The Detention Club by David Yoo

Lately I’ve been getting lots of requests for book recommendations for reluctant readers and pre-teen boys. So, when I received a preview box of books from Library Bound Inc (thanks Helen!) I immediately picked up an ARC of ‘The Detention Club’ by David Yoo.

The story follows sixth-grader Peter Lee, and his best friend Drew as they attempt to regain their popularity they once had in elementary school. Within a couple of days at Fenwick Middle, the boys quickly realize that being great collectors of stuff (especially mica) doesn’t make them popular anymore and that the popularity game has changed.  Peter and Drew become so obsessed with fitting in that their school grades begin to slide. As a result, Peter is given detention, but learns that serving detention may actually help him to network with the right people to re-establish their presence in the social ladder. 

I really enjoyed this book for several reasons:

-Relatable. Popularity in middle/high school is a huge part of life. Most students can relate to the longing Peter and Drew have to be in considered the ‘in crowd’. Yoo is also able to incorporate other issues within the novel, including family drama and sibling rivalry with Peter’s over-achieving, eighth-grade sister, Sunny.

-Hilarious. When Peter’s plan of taking digital photos of the blackboard (instead of taking notes) backfires, he blames his dad for buying a terrible camera that takes grainy photos.  Also, the creative ideas the boys come up with to increase their popularity had me laughing out loud. 

-Surprising. There is a school thief that is determined to steal everyone’s most prized possessions.  The kids in detention think the thief is Peter (after all, he does fit all the criteria).  When the true identity of the thief is revealed, prepare to be surprised! 

-Loved the characters. I wish I had a best friend like Drew. He is funny without trying to be. He reminds readers to embrace the inner loser in all of us.

Although most kids would do anything to get out of detention, I would love to join Fenwick Middle’s detention club! Well… maybe if it’s just for one day to get a sweet drawing of a unicorn.

<<—I just wish the cover was different.

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