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Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider

Reading this book was like a breath of fresh air at a petrol station, at first you like the smell of the fumes but eventually it becomes too much that you're ready to hop into your car and head home. Aside from the petrol fumes, this is a great book that teaches you to distinguish between the things in life that make you and the superficial things that will eventually break you. That's not all you'll learn though! One thing my Literature teachers will love is that it has a Bildungsroman (coming of age) plot, through the novel we journey through Ezra's transformation in self discovery and understanding his place in the big plan of the universe.

The first book I read on my brand new Kindle Fire HDX (minor plug in) and I managed to read it in a couple hours, it was a very easy read but I found the ending a tad disappointing if I’m being honest. I think both titles are very fitting, ‘Severed Heads, Broken Hearts’ for the obvious reasons that become apparent after reading the first chapter, but I find ‘The Beginning of Everything’ is more fitting once you’ve finished the book and realised how incomplete the novel really is.

A friend told me I just had to read this new book she found and after she compared the male lead to Augustus from 'The Fault in Our Stars' I was definitely intrigued.  I’ve never been a fan of books that are told through a male’s perspective, usually I find myself disjointed from all feelings as I can’t relate; but Robyn Schneider wrote this story so well that I simply couldn’t put it down until I knew what happened to Ezra. It’s weird yet almost refreshing to have the male protagonist be vulnerable and exposed. I must admit I was rather sceptical to have this book compared with TFiOS, given what a great read that was, Severed Heads, Broken Hearts had a very high standard to live up to.

Most unconventionally this story was told through the view point of the “popular jock” of high school, rarely is it ever done and I felt like I was allowed into this elitist world that no novelist I have read had dared to delve into. I found it invigorating to read through the mind of someone I would have otherwise considered a “snobbish douche” but Schneider presented Ezra as a human who knew his flaws but didn't act on them was quite interesting, he was consciously aware when he went back to his old friends that he would be unfulfilled emotionally but they satisfied a superficial hunger he had. Ezra’s character was perfectly imperfect.

The book for me was divided into three main sections: pre- accident, post- accident and post Cassidy.

I liked the growth from charming elementary Ezra to high school douche. One striking quality about Ezra was that he knew he was merely existing, but continued to do so.

Degeneration isn't the right word, more like transformation from Tennis Star to "crippled" debate team member I was initially misguided when I thought that Cassidy was fundamental turning point for Ezra’s whole life but she wasn’t. It was only when I finished reading did I finally understand that not all teen fiction is shrouded by the fact that a relationship, no matter how toxic or consuming, can solve everything because it cannot.  Ezra’s accident gave him a new sense of clarity for what he wanted out of life, he read his first book! That is huge by my standards.
After reading it I found it really hard to understand Cassidy and her intentions, she seems unnecessarily interesting by the time you finish the book you realised her presence wasn’t really unimportant. Though at times I found reading the novel utterly frustrating, Schneider’s mad portrayal of a female somewhat protagonist had a method to it. She was just a lesson Ezra had to learn to continue his journey through life. This was most definitely a story of change and choice. As unsatisfied as the ending made me feel, I’m glad it did. It may not have had a complete ending but neither has Ezra’s fictional life. He is still out there in fictional college going out with fictional girls and hopefully he’ll become whatever his fictional heart desires. “Had we but world enough time” perhaps we would find out how young Ezra Faulkner’s life turns out, but the answered questions left me feeling vacant yet completely engrossed. The main reason why I enjoyed reading this book so much was the way I was able to relate to it, I may not have been in a life changing car accident but sometimes it feels like “I didn’t know who I was anymore, or who I wanted to be” but I'm having fun trying to figure it out.

There were so many great things written in this book that I could have literally gone from cover to cover with a highlighter. Here are some great ones I just could not leave out:

"Your silence is judging me"

"I thought of hydrocarbon chains in organic chemistry; the same thing upside down, and how knowing to look for it changes your whole perspective"

"She leaves a trail of broken hearts"

"Destined to forever be someone whose defining characteristics was lost forever at seventeen rather than found"

"I’m the proverbial ostrich that kicks sand in your face, my friend"

"The world tends towards chaos"

"History is filled with fictional people. And even the epigraph Fitzgerald placed at the beginning  of The Great Gatsby is by a writer who doesn’t exist"

"We have all been fooled into believing in people who are entirely imaginary – made up prisoners in a hypothetical panopticon."

"Isn’t whether or not you believe in imaginary people; it’s whether or not you want to"

"Outwardly mocking, but never quite to the point of not wanting to participate"

"The aftermath of a personal tragedy"

"I wondered what things became when you no longer needed them, and I wondered what the future would hold once we'd gotten past our personal tragedies and proved them ultimately survivable"

"You see perfection, I see panopticon"

"Sickening sillage of the truth, neither of us angry, or upset, just muddling through this shared sorrow, this collective pity"

“Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spent a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”

I intend to live because you don't know when personal tragedy will attack, will you even be ready?.


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