I actually had to think hard about how to rate this book. It wasn't what I expected, so I had to readjust my own perceptions to accurately give this one four out of five stars.
This is the story of Evan, the guy who you don't want to like. He's a star athlete with good looks and the cheerleader girlfriend. He's guy who walks into the party and everyone yells, "EVAAAAN!" All his friends are fellow star athletes. They have the choice table at lunch. Oh, and they live in sunny CA.
Evan, however, has a theory: everyone experiences a tragedy at some point that irrevocably changes their lives. His childhood best friend, Toby, experienced his tragedy at age 12. On his birthday, he and Evan and a few other friends go to Disneyland. While on a roller coaster, a young tourist in the seat in front of Toby stands up and is decapitated and Toby catches the head. Yikes. You can imagine the teasing this leads to. So who can blame good looking athletic Evan for kinda distancing himself from Toby? However, Evan's tragedy was awaiting him at the end of junior year. He leaves a party one night angry and heads home and is hit by another driver in a hit and run. His knee is shattered, as are his athletic hopes and dreams. His pretty friends abandon him and his cheerleader girlfriend is gone. Showing up at school on the first day of senior year pale and walking with a cane, he finds himself on the debate team (one of the few non-sport electives at his school) and rekindling a friendship with Toby and the other school misfits.
Evan is deeply flawed and so very well done. As I said before, he's the guy you don't want to like... but then you do! You want to help him maybe? And the whole book is about Evan growing from his "tragedy," so there's lots and lots of character growth. Evan isn't the only 3D character, either. I'd say that Toby and Cassidy are also very well-rounded.
Remember that I'm giving the book four of five stars as I tell you that there were two little flaws with the book. First, the cover. This is so minor, but I can't resist mentioning it. It's all bright and kind of cheery and features a roller coaster. The roller coaster thing is so very minor in the book! It happened years before the book begins, and is barely mentioned after the first chapter. And I didn't feel like this book had a ton of cheeriness. It wasn't depressing, but it was about a guy growing up and learning some hard truths along the way. Second, I figured out the reveal before the reveal. Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil it! But you know how there's always some "what's up with that character?" thing? I figured out what was up with that character before Schneider revealed it. Not all the details, but the general idea. It didn't ruin the book, but I probably would've leaned more toward 4.5 or 5 stars out of 5 if I hadn't.
Overall, a good book. For it's page count, I fairly flew through it. Definitely has older teen appeal (there's a borderline steamy scene at one point), but I'm not sure a ton of adults will line up to read it.
*I received an ARC of The Beginning of Everything from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.