Book Reviews

[review] The Catastrophic History of You and Me – Jess Rothenberg

Release Date: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada

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?

Tell Me More: Dying of a literally broken heart? It’s the stuff Lifetime movies are made up of, and while I would normally avoid similar plots like it’s my job, I had a hunch that TCHOYAM was going to be the exception to my rule. Jess Rothenberg has written one of the strongest and most heartfelt contemporary YA novels I’ve been privileged to read in my entire life.

One question I always ask when it comes to books about the afterlife: why should I care about this character, post mortem? If their lives have already ended, what is there left for me to read about? Seeing the family deal with their loss isn’t enough–there has to be a truly compelling reason to convince me that this painful reflection on a life taken too soon is worth it. Brie Eagan is worth it all.

I haven’t connected with a character so completely since Anna and the French Kiss. Brie is funny and clever, but she can also be selfish and reckless–in other words, a real teenager. Her inability to accept her death at the hands of her boyfriend (though indirectly) is understandable, and her insistence on finding the truth is admirable. I’ve seen reviews where people complain about how whiny she is, and all I have to say is she died when she was 16. Expecting adult, mature behaviour isn’t fair, and I believe that she is a truly dynamic character who continues to have wonderful potential to grow even after her death.

Another aspect of the story that made me a bit anxious was the hint of a love triangle involving Brie, Jacob and Patrick. My own feelings about love triangles are enough to fill a whole other blog post, but thankfully, Rothenberg steered her characters in the right direction. While the reason behind Jacob’s defection is a little predictable, it didn’t take away from Brie’s heartbreak and served to flesh out Jacob’s character as well. In fact, the vibrancy of the characters is this book’s greatest strength. And Patrick, oh my dear sweet Patrick Darling. Let’s put it this way: given the choice between Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars and Patrick? I would refuse to choose and keep them both with me forever.

Writing-wise, Rothenberg has captured the teenage voice to a T. Her commitment to telling Brie’s story the right way is obvious from the first page, and I couldn’t think of anything that needed to be edited down for clarity or to improve the pace of the novel. Her editorial skills must have been a blessing while writing this book. I never felt that the story could go any other way, and having that kind of faith in an author (a debut one at that!) is wonderful. I look forward to Ms. Rothenberg’s future books with the same enthusiasm I give to John Green, Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins. She deserves it.

That’s Not All:

  • That plot twist about 3/4 into the book? I burst into tears and would not be comforted. Granted, I am a crier, but I was so emotionally attached to the characters that I couldn’t help myself.
  • I have gained a newfound respect for cheese, despite the fact that I don’t eat it.
  • Brie’s little brother Jack and dog Hamloaf are now two of my top ten supporting characters in YA.

The Final Say: This is the start of a long and loving life with The Catastrophic History of You and Me. Thank you, Jess Rothenberg, for giving me a contemporary novel that will never break mine or other readers’ hearts.

Don’t forget to check out my interview with Jess, in which we discuss theme songs, writing vs. editing and that amazing title.

You can visit Jess Rothenberg at her website and follow her on Twitter @JessRothenberg.

You can check out The Catastrophic History of You and Me on Goodreads and order it from The Book Depository.


5 replies »

  1. Oh, I’m reading this one now and my only complaint is that I don’t have more time to read 🙂 It’s so great. Reminds me of Anna in that amazing contemporary way 😀

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