Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

By: Jess Rothenberg
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Contemporary Paranormal
Pages: 400
Source: ARC from Around the World Tours

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?

The Catastrophic History of You and Me has the feeling of a contemporary novel but with an undeniably paranormal twist. Brie is dead, stuck in the afterlife, but with the ability to spy on her friends and family in the real world. These were some of my favorite scenes from the novel, and it was heartbreaking to see Brie watch the rest of the world move on without her and be unable to interact with her loved ones. The depiction of Brie’s various relationships – with her family, with her friends, even with her dog – was very well done and really set the whole tone of the novel for me.

Jess Rothenberg has captured the voice of a fifteen-year-old perfectly. It is absolutely spot on. Brie can be insecure, annoying, and impulsive, but also caring, passionate, and surprisingly perceptive. She comes off as very juvenile and angry at first, which is completely understandable given what she’s going through, and her growth and development throughout the novel are really fun to watch.

There were a few pretty major issues I had with Catastrophic History, one of which is the whole basic premise of the book. Brie actually dies of a broken heart. Literally, her heart breaks into two pieces when her boyfriend breaks up with her. This was something I knew I was going to have issues with even before I started the book, and I was hoping it would be addressed in some way that made a little more sense, but that’s actually all there is to it – she dies of a broken heart.

I also unfortunately wasn’t really feeling the romance. Patrick and Brie do have some fun scenes together that I enjoyed, but overall I never warmed up to him. He also constantly uses cheese-themed nicknames for Brie, which absolutely drove me crazy. It would be annoying enough if he just stuck with one nickname, but he uses a different one almost every time. Cheeto, Cheese Puff, Chedster, Cream Cheese, Cheez Whiz, Cheese Face, Cheese Breath… I get that her name is Brie, okay, haha, very funny. But these are not cute or flattering or endearing at all. I probably would have smacked him.

I actually did start to get more into the romance in the last 100 pages or so, but I think the final dramatic payoff would have had more of an impact if it had been threaded throughout the whole novel a little better. I know that might sound confusing, but I’m intentionally trying to be vague to avoid spoilers. :)

Despite these issues, I still really enjoyed The Catastrophic History of You and Me, mainly because of Brie’s voice and the realistic portrayal of the different relationships throughout the novel. And I LOVED the song titles and lyrics at the beginning of each chapter, those were so fun. It made me want to go find the songs and listen to them as I was reading. (And oh hey, the lovely author Jess has actually made a playlist for the book on her website, which you can find here.)

The Catastrophic History of You and Me is a unique, funny, and touching debut novel about growing up and dealing with both life and what happens when it’s over. I’ll definitely be looking for more from Jess Rothenberg.


  1. So you are saying that if a guy called you Cheese Face, you wouldn't want to spend more time with him? Haha. I totally agree with you on Brie's voice, it is so spot on and made the story so much more enjoyable! I'm sad you didn't really warm to Patrick, but I guess that means more for me :0) Excellent review and I'm glad you ultimately enjoyed the book!

  2. I'm sorry you were not into the romance right away, sometimes that takes time with any novel. I'm still really excited to read this one.

    Thanks for the great review :)

  3. I really dig this review (your reviews are always written so well) and I'm glad you've given me some insight on this book. I don't blame you for being bothered by the lack of explanation regarding the dying of a broken heart deal-- that's going to bother me as well when I read this book! But I'm glad to hear that this is an overall great story. =)
    Thanks for the snazzy review!


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