Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Ezra Faulkner's life drastically changed just weeks before he finished his junior year of high school. Class president and captain of the tennis team, he and his girlfriend had a disagreement and Ezra went to a party by himself. Expecting to meet Charlotte there, he is shocked when someone tells him to go look in one of the bedrooms at the house where the party is being held. There he finds his girlfriend with another guy and he makes the long trek back to his car after he interrupts them. Stopped in a blind spot, a SUV runs a stop sign and plows into Ezra's car. Everyone at the party scattered when the police arrived in fear of being caught for underage drinking. Not one of his friends rode in the ambulance with him. His mother put on her makeup and jewelry before coming to the hospital when called. In the blink of an eye, Ezra’s life has changed. Once the popular kid at school, Ezra now has a shattered knee that will never be the same. Ezra's tennis career is over and his future uncertain.

Now, no one expects anything from Ezra. On the first day of his senior year, his most humiliating moment occurs at the opening pep rally. Using a cane, Ezra has no one to sit with and must sit on the front row with the teachers. His former best friend Toby sits with him. The two drifted apart at the beginning of seventh grade; Ezra was an athlete and Toby soon joined the debate team. Striking up a conversation, Toby realizes that Ezra is uncomfortable as the athletic teams, including the tennis team are announced. He makes a crack comment and a teacher throws them out of the gym. Ezra is grateful and Toby asks if he will think about joining the debate team.

His first class, AP Euro is taught by his former tennis coach and even though the situation is beyond Ezra's control, it seems as if Mr. Anthony has it out for him. He does notice that there is a new girl in the class who stands out in her attire. She is dressed in a men's button down shirt with jean shorts and carries a worn leather satchel. Definitely not trying to fit in, Ezra is intrigued by her deep blue eyes and red hair. She asks where to find her second class and even though it is the same one he has, he declines to escort her. Ezra struggles to walk with his cane and doesn't want anyone to see him. Knowing he is no longer part of the in crowd, he finds another place to spend lunch, not realizing how truly awful coming back to school would be after his accident.

Ezra arrives early for his senior Spanish class. Soon some of his former teammates come in and sit next to him. They begin talking and offer to share some of their takeout lunch with him and ask if he would like to join them tomorrow. Charlotte enters and comes over to talk with the other boys. He soon realizes that not only is Evan the new tennis team captain but dating Charlotte as well. He has effectively stepped into Ezra's old life. Charlotte ignores him either out of pity or guilt, he isn't sure. Comments are made when the new girl walks into class. Mrs. Martin has everyone to pair up for introductory interviews. Everyone will introduce their partner to the class en espanol. Where the guys were friendly with Ezra just moments ago, he is now the odd man out and finds himself with the new girl. She tells him that her name is Cassidy and that she use to go to a boarding school. She spent the summer in a high school program at Oxford University studying Shakespeare. Ezra has never really been out of the country. They make it through the introductions.

Ezra is invited the next day to have lunch with Toby and his group of friends. Cassidy joins them. An eclectic mix of teens, Ezra has a clear shot of his former table with his friends. The same friends who texted him all summer to join them on outdoor excursions he couldn't physically do and never visited him at the hospital. The sight of Evan and Charlotte all over each other stings and he realizes that they have been together for a while. Even more shocking is the fact that Toby knows Cassidy. She is an excellent debater who always won the competitions. Toby is surprised that the two of them know each other.

One evening after a meeting with his senior advisor, Ezra is no longer sure of his future. Before the accident he was the golden boy who colleges would be recruiting him to play tennis. Now he is unsure. He sees Cassidy in the parking lot coming from her own meeting with her advisor. They begin talking and Ezra notices for the first time how beautiful she is so unlike the other fake looking girls at their school. He asks where her car is and she says that she rode her bike, trying to reduce her carbon footprint. Before he can think about, Ezra offers her a ride home; carpooling reduces the footprint as well. He is afraid a coyote may come down into the neighborhoods on her way home. She readily agrees.

In the car, Cassidy comments how she likes the Ezra who isn't afraid to talk better than the closed of Ezra at school. He is startled that she has noticed. After the third degree by the gate guard at her subdivision, she immediately suggests that they go to the park. After Ezra pushes her on the swings and he points out his bedroom window, the park lies in between their respective houses, he phone buzzes. It is her mother. Not use to living at home and checking in, Cassidy leaves on her bike. Ezra watches her knowing that in a million years a girl like Cassidy would never be interested in a boy like him.

As a joke, Toby signs up Ezra for the debate team when the coach passes around an interest page. He sees his name and writes Cassidy's down as well. When the two of them are called early from their lunch, it is to let them know that the coach has already signed them up for a competition the following weekend. Cassidy is furious when they leave. She no longer wanted to debate. The only way to now refuse is to publicly forfeit. Ezra had no idea how she felt and he admits to signing her name on the page. Her anger turns to Ezra. He walks with a limp and a cane; people know why he no longer plays tennis. She doesn't want to explain why she no longer debates to people she has just met. Ezra feels awful.

Later that night, Toby's group of friends has invited Ezra to join them for a movie screening at the high school. Cassidy is already there when Ezra arrives and the movie has started. He spends the entire night secretly watching Cassidy. She seems so sad and he wonders what has happened in life. He is surprised when Cassidy comes over to talk to him when the movie is over. He says that is surprised that she is talking to him. She lets him know that she is over being mad. She is going to prep him so that he can win the debate competition.

What happened to Cassidy that she quit debating? Does Ezra win the debate competition? Will Ezra's accident and injuries turn out to be a positive turning point in his life? What does his future hold? Can he go from being Eastwood's most popular golden boy to finding who his true friends really are? Will Cassidy be able to return Ezra's feelings? And what happens when their friendship hits a major bump in the road?

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