Book Review: The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
Back cover blurb: Brie’s life ends at sixteen. Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart – literally.
First line: There’s always that one guy that gets a hold on you.
“Gorgeous, funny and heartbreaking.” – Lauren Oliver cover blurb
Teen Librarian Heather Booth posted on the TLT Facebook wall that “I cried and cried! But it was a GOOD cry.”
At the beginning of The Catastrophic History, Jacob tells Brie that he doesn’t love her. The x-rays show that her heart seems to have literally broken. In the story telling device made popular in The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Brie narrates this tale from the afterlife. She goes to her funeral, visits her family and friends, eats a lot of pizza (there is pizza in the afterlife), and learns that love is more complicated then she could ever have imagined.
When Brie arrives in heaven, she meets a young man named Patrick who says he is there to help guide her through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. As Brie moves through each stage, the story takes some interesting twists and turns. It went in directions that I was not expecting at all and that made the story that much more interesting. Along the way Brie faces a wide variety of emotions and meets some interesting characters. In the midst of despair in the middle of the story, Brie becomes a selfish, unlikable character – think Harry Potter in the middle volumes of the HP saga; but, as the story progresses, Brie finds ways to right some wrongs and makes an amazing self discovery.
The beginning of CHY&M was a slow read, the reader spends a lot of time getting to know Brie and Brie spends a lot of time sitting in a pizza parlor reflecting. The slower intro is saved by Rothenberg’s ability to turn some witty phrases and the great interplay between Brie and Patrick. It is when Brie steps out of the pizza parlor that the story begins to pick up its pace and the reader begins to be truly invested. As Brie begins to visit her family and friends, she sees things – some of which may or may not be what they seem – and takes a roller coaster ride of emotions and self discovery. At one point she meets up with a fellow dead girl, Larkin, who offers to take her necklace (i.e. her soul) in exchange for the opportunity to relive one day of her life. Will she use this opportunity to right a wrong and help save the very young man who broke her heart? This part of the story was dark and kept me on the edge of my seat.
CHY&M is a journey of self discovery, but it is also a paranormal romance with a very interesting twist (which I will not spoil). Things are not always what they seem. People are not always who you think they are. And in the end, maybe true love prevails.
This is Jess Rothenberg’s debut novel and she writes with wit, snark and touching humor; overall she does a good job of capturing the teen voice and the angst of a broken heart. I loved Hamloaf (the dog) and what he brought to the story. This title will move off the shelves for you and teen girls everywhere will be wanting to read it. Me, My Shelf and I proclaims that this will be one of the biggest books in 2012 in their review. I think that the genre is incredibly popular (!) and this is a good addition so you’ll definitely want to add it to your collection.
As a side note, CHY&M comes with its own built in playlist: every chapter title is a song lyric. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out my earlier post about book playlists.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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