Book Review: The Catastrophic History Of You And Me by Jess Rothenberg
Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever.
BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.
But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.
With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces? ( From Goodreads.com)
I'm going to find this review very difficult I think, due to a fear of giving too much away. So I apologise in advance for vagueness.
The Catastrophic History of You and Me isn't exactly what I was expecting and is hard to categorise. The entire story takes place in Brie's afterlife and is incredibly surreal. Jess Rothenberg has a very readable, witty writing style and with the book split into sections covering the five stages of grief it's easy to become absorbed. I read it in just a few sittings over a couple of days.
I liked the originality of the book. I've never read anything like it before and I had no idea where it was going. I loved the idea of splitting the book into the stages of grief, so each one became a stage or lesson that Brie needs to work through. It did strike me a little odd that the grief was the dead persons, for themselves, at first but then I would probably grieve for myself too in that situation. Being an 80's child I also really liked the references to eighties music with song titles or lyrics mainly from that era titling every chapter...in a very clever way! Patrick was by far the most interesting character in the book and I admit a little soft spot for him...you really can never go wrong with a cheeky chappie on a motorbike can you? OK maybe that's just me then.
So there was quite a lot to like about this book, and despite the suggestion from the cover and synopsis it isn't as light as it appears giving the reader things to think about. However I had an issue with a major aspect of this book, namely the dieing of a broken heart. This appears to be literal, and Brie's behaviour after her death to the boy she blames for her broken heart is diabolic. Even more shocking is the fact these are 15 year olds. Now I'm not belittling the pain that a break up can cause, at any age, but particularly that age. I've been there, I felt my world was ending. But I didn't like the message that was sent out here, that she actually dies because a boyfriend of eleven months breaks up with her? (this isn't a spoiler. It happens in the first few pages) It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Some effort is made to explain the condition towards the end, but it's very vague. Oh and talking about age... I found Brie so confusing. At times she (and her friends) seemed older than 15. Then other times, a lot of other times, she was pretty bratty and immature.
I ended up having mixed feelings with this one. Yes, it was beautifully written, quirky, original and compelling enough but I just couldn't connect with Brie that much and found her a confusing character. I can see a lot of people really loving The Catastrophic History of You and Me, for me it was just ok.
Published February 2012 by Penguin (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review purposes.