Published by: Penguin Young Readers Group
Recommended by: Brooke Busse
Christina Reads Your RecommendationsA Reader of Fictions' Sadie Hawkins SundaySend in your recommendations via this form
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?
First, two points:
1. This became a read-along with the lovely Jessie at Ageless Pages Reviews. If you haven't visited her blog, do so ASAP. She has absolutely wonderful reviews, and it was so awesome to discuss this book with her! (PS - Jessie, if you're reading this: I'm going to get to the e-mail tomorrow :)).
2. This is a book that is not for me. It's not that the book is horribly written - just that I don't think that I am the target audience. Thus I had a harder time connecting with the main character etc. etc. I had a very similar experience with Transparent by Natalie Whipple. I would also recommend this book to a "tween"/younger YA crowd. So take the rest of my comments with a grain of salt.
1. (+/-) Brie, the protagonist - I had a rough time with Brie. I thought that I could've really identified with her during her funeral, but it was told in a dissociated narrative that made me feel distanced from her. And then, well, in order for Brie to pass through those five stages of grief, she's got to make some really questionable decisions. In order for her to grow, she's got to start at a low place. And Brie at her highest wasn't enough for me to make up for the self-absorbed Brie at her lowest. She's a sarcastic, witty, cutesy, incredibly believable teen who would choose Belle as her Disney princess, and whether you like this book hinges on whether you like Brie. I'd suggest reading some excerpts and seeing if you can deal with the young teen voice, then picture her having done something that you'd cringe at now but would have definitely done as a teen. Will you be okay with that?
2. (+/-) World-building - At first I was really glad that there were no info-dumps with regard to being D&G - Patrick does hand Brie a book with all the details about the things they can do, etc. etc. But the more the novel progressed, the more confused I got with regard to what zooming was, why they would go to the top of the Golden Gate, how these various powers came to be. The book takes a very go-with-the-flow approach to the world-building that I generally appreciate, but for some reason, didn't quite work for me this time around. The setting, on the other hand, was established quite well. Brie's got a few favorite hang-out places which have their own textual references, like Frostys at one of the food places. That added to a nice sense of appreciation for where she lived prior to her death.
3. (+) Romance - Patrick was adorably cheesy in some points, yet annoyed me at other times. "Aw, you're cute when you're in denial." Lines like "you're cute when..." are literally one of my romance pet peeves. As Jessie told me, they smack of condescension. Also, at that point, you're wondering how a character you just met could actually know that of the MC. Anyway, that's obviously a personal preference. It's quite refreshing that Patrick isn't the best thing since sliced pie, that he and the MC have to work for their relationship. Also refreshing that he's not a jerk, as you might find in most romantic interests in PNR (though this does read more as contemporary romance in the afterlife), and okay, so he's cheesy. So he's basically described as being Tom Cruise in Top Gun, a 1982 Fighter Pilot. He still brings a nice lightness to the story, matches well with Brie, and even better, he's got his own story. He's his own person, and for more of his personality and humor, you can read the excerpts I included at the end.
4. (+/-) Cheesiness/Message - This book has the highest level of cheese factor that I've encountered in years. The romantic interest comes up with a variety of nicknames, most of which are based on some form of cheese thanks to Brie's name (Cheeseball, Cream Cheese, Angel, etc.), and the banter between Patrick and Brie can get really, really cheesy. I like cheesy things on occasion, but you have to be in the right mood for them, I think, so I figured that I ought to warn you. More worrisome than the cheesiness is the underlying core to the novel - that teenagers would go to such extremes over their first loves.
5. (+/-) Pop Culture References - Remember that time when I wrote a discussion post about pop culture references? I could have framed my discussion around this book - it has so, so many pop culture references. This book has got the Disney princess vibe plus Top Gun, Doritos, orange Crocs, a bunch of 80s songs (the chapter titles are all named after song lyrics; there is actually an appendix to name the songs that were referred to over the course of the novel)... Those are just the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. Obviously, if you're a fan of 80s pop culture or pop culture references in general, you will love this book. Me? I'm a pop culture fail, so not so much on my end.
6. (+) Stages of Grief - One thing that I appreciated about this title was its attempts to take matters beyond the typical paranormal / contemporary mix and give a little depth to Brie's death. As the summary says, Brie has to pass through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) to get to the right place in her afterlife. And each of these stages was developed well.
7. (+/-) Plot - Another thing that I can definitively say about this book is that I did not predict where it was heading. It threw me for a loop with some of the plot threads, so I can genuinely say that it was one of my more unpredictable reads of this summer. That being said, there were some plot threads that I thought this book could have done without so that it would have been shorter. If some plot threads had been cut, I think my issue with the pacing (below) would have been much reduced.
8. (+) Writing - The writing is fine. Never once did I doubt that I was reading from a teenage girl's POV, and it's got an almost compulsive quality to it, teenspeak and all. Very easy to read. The one complaint I had was in the beginning when Brie was talking about things as if they'd already happened - a dissociated narrative until she's D&G. I found it harder to relate to her in those moments.
9. (--) Pacing - I should warn you: I was asked to read this book because my critique partner believed the story had weird pacing. Honestly, I wasn't thinking of that when I started reading the book, but I definitely thought about it later, so maybe my judgment's a bit skewed--who knows? I'll give an example: during Brie's funeral, she's remembering how she and her friends have charm necklaces, and then suddenly the attention shifts back to the funeral. The beginning jumps around from this wonderfully poignant narrative about insta!love as a teenager to facts about Brie and her life to her funeral to her heart breaking and diagnosing it etc. etc. As you can see, it jumps around a bit. And later, when it comes to the different stages of grief, each part reads like it's got its own pacing separate from the novel.
10. (+) The Cover - Definitely a fit for this book. The dress, the bridge, the font. Symbolic and fits the cutesy tone very well. (Also I really like that title font -- anyone know what it is?)
Although this book was not for me, it may work for a younger YA crowd looking for a cute, fun, fluffy read with a bit of heart and a lot of pop culture references. The story does address redemption, lost love, grief, and the need for compassion and understanding, so it's not a completely light read either.
Here's one way of telling whether you'll like the book. Do you like the voice in these excerpts? Do you like the interaction between Patrick and Brie? (I tried to choose excerpts in the first 1/4th so they aren't too spoilery!)
I stared at his jacket, disliking it more and more by the second. “Do you ever take that thing off?”
“Why would I? I look good!”
“You look stupid.”
“Whu-oh, look out. She’s testy today, folks.”
I scowled. “I am not testy.”
“Or wait a second.” He grinned. “I get it. You’re trying to get my clothes off, aren’t you? You totally want to see my sexy bare man chest!” He reached for his jacket zipper.
“Ew!” I threw a piece of crust at him. “Spare me the hairy details.”
“You sure?” He paused. “You really don’t know what you’re missing.” (~16%, Kindle)
“So, do you want to get back at him?”
I paused, mid-slurp. Looked up. “What do you mean? Get back at who?”
He groaned and fell over on the table. “Seriously, Cleopatra? You’ve seriously already forgotten?”
Huh? What am I supposed to be remembering? And why’s he calling me Cleopatra?
He smacked his head when I didn’t answer. “My dear, you continue to amaze me.”
He reached over and grabbed my shake. “You’ve got Phase One bad, kid. Real bad. Luckily, you’re sort of cute when you’re in denial.” He took a slurp from the straw. “Oh, that is GOOD.”
“Hey!” I swatted at him. “Get your own!” My eyes wandered to his outfit, as they did from time to time, and I found myself cracking a smile.
He caught me staring. “What’s so funny?” (19%, Kindle)
“Ben definitely L’s you,” Sadie teased me as we ran to the auditorium. “You two would be insanely cute.”
“His glasses are adorb,” Tess agreed. “I think it’s def time you got a handle on Handleman.” We all burst into giggles and pranced inside, totally excited for all the magical make-out sessions the night would obviously bring.
So when I saw Ben kissing Anna Clayton front and center, let’s just say I wasn’t exactly psyched. The music was blasting. Tons of kids were talking in big circles. Thousands of glowing yellow lights were strung up across the walls and ceiling. Super-high above our heads, a giant disco ball glimmered and spun— casting little diamond-shaped sparkles across our faces.
And there, right in the middle of the dance floor, Ben and Anna were apparently guest starring on Project Tongueway. (~26%, Kindle)
Up Next: Need to catch up on 2 review titles: Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. If one of you submits these titles via the form below, I could continue this feature and you'd get a free link to your blog. Otherwise I have to suspend this feature just for the next two weeks. But as always, here's my plea to please send in some recommendations :D. Especially of books from this list!
PS - is it world-building, worldbuilding, or world building? I HAVE WONDERED THIS FOR YEARS. Do you know? Booooo if I've been writing it incorrectly all this time o.O.