Wednesday 14 August 2013

Reviewed by Arianne: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider.

Product details:
Publisher: Simon &Schuster UK.
Paperback, 288 pages.
Release date: August 15th 2013.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Ages: 13+
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.


  1. I love the sound of this, definitely adding it to my TBR list! Thanks!

  2. I loved this book too! The writing was amazing, all the characters were really well developed and TOBY! I just love Toby Ellicott:) I also thought it had a pretty authentic ending, and one that surprised me. Great review!

  3. I absolutely love your review Arianne. Not only does the book sound right up my alley, but you had me sold on your mentions of the philosophical aspects of the novel as well as the fact that you think of it as an off-the-beaten track indie movie. Definitely something that appeals to me.

  4. Great review, after all that praise I'm dying to read this one. And yes severed heads has a zombie feel to it! Very misleading.

  5. I would have assumed that this was a zombie novel too by the title, I think I much prefer the US title too, this sounds like such a cute read. I may have to give it a try too! Great review! :)

  6. Love this review, Arianne. It's quite beautiful! :) I agree with you on the UK title change - it doesn't exactly scream contemp!

  7. For some reason, the depth of this one sounds vaguely reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars, which I loved. That, too, tackled darker issues with wit and grace, and it totally worked for me. I'll definitely need to read this now. Wonderful review, Arianne! :)

  8. Liz @ Planet Print15 August 2013 at 15:06

    I think The Beginning of Everything is perhaps a better title too - I originally thought Severed Heads, Broken Hearts was some kind of paranormal romance or something. Glad you enjoyed this book! I'm happy that it doesn't become too preachy because that can be really annoying. Great review!

  9. I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the title misleading, Liz! It's definitely got more of that 'and the moral of the story is...' feel than other YA books I've read of late, but it's really worth checking out.

  10. It's definitely got John Green's style of character exploration, Melissa - but it's also got the frank sharpness of a David Levithan put-down and the poignancy of a Sarah Ockler novel, so it's not exactly easy to define! It's the kind of book that will mean something different for every reader. I can't wait to see what you think of it :)

  11. I'm really glad you liked it, Leanna! I had a lot of fun writing it. It's such a beautiful and expressive book it deserved at least a shadow of that in its review :)

  12. Thanks, Jasprit! Robyn Schneider writes with too much realism and truth for the full cute label to really apply here, but I hope you enjoy anyway!

  13. You'll really enjoy it, Trish! I hope you get to read it soon, let us know what you think as soon as you do! :)

  14. Thanks, Tammy! It reminded me most of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - both the book and the film. It reads fast, spins from one scene to another, and has a beautifully bittersweet feel. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you read it! :)

  15. I loved the ending too, Heather! It's bittersweet to a certain extent but totally perfect. Glad you enjoyed! :)

  16. Glad we could help! Hope you enjoy.

  17. I need to read this! Great review :)


  18. can someone please explain the pun about the tennis player that is found on page 6?

  19. It's a shakespear reference yo


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