Book Review: The Catastrophic History of You and Me

Jess Rothenberg, death, dying, ghosts, heartbreak, Contemporary YA, contemporary, paranormal YA, paranormal, Young adult, afterlife, Dial Books, gay teen, best friendsTitle: The Catastrophic History of You and Me

Author: Jess Rothenberg

Genre: Contemporary YA, Paranormal YA

Publisher: Dial Books

Published on: February 21, 2012

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge

Source: DAC ARC Tour (Thanks Tara!)

Summary: 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?

You guys ever read a book that you mostly like and you read pretty quickly (for me, the quicker I read a book often, but not always, is an indicator of how much I did or didn’t like it), except you get to the end and all you can remember really are some of the things that bothered you? I always feel TERRIBLE when this happens, but sometimes you can’t avoid it, and in some ways, THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg is that kind of book for me: largely good and pretty enjoyable, but with lingering things that made me go “hmmmm….”

I certainly enjoyed the voice of the main character, Brie. She was a perfect mix of humorous and sentimental, and I thought she was a great personality. Even when I thought she was making a mistake or acting silly, I felt where she was coming from, and I can’t overstate how important this is to me when I’m reading. So PROPS, Jess Rothenberg!

The other characters were varying levels of awesome, either because we got to see them up close and personal both in real time and/or in flashbacks or because we hardly got to know them at all. Brie’s best friend, Sadie, and her ex-boyfriend, Jacob, were complex, well-rounded, and fully realized characters. Brie’s dad was a tricky guy because we saw that he was struggling so hard with Brie’s death, but then he was also not necessarily the best husband and father. Gray area, folks! YA can haz it! We saw a fair bit of these three, but I would have liked to see a little more of Brie’s mom and brother, though.

Patrick, the love interest/Resident Lost Soul, was a good character, too. The whole 80s thing (Patrick died in the 80s and so was eternally looking like a Top Gun extra and Brie is OBSESSED with 80s songs) was fun, although he never said things like “rad” or talked about John Hughes movies. But Patrick was fun, funny, devoted, and a little mysterious. Something about him kept me from REALLY connecting with him, though. Something about their relationship seemed a little random, perhaps? Time passed differently in the ghost world, so chunks of time would pass in between chapters, and so we missed some of the nuances.

That’s not to say that I didn’t feel a connection between Brie and Patrick. They were cute and flirty, and I LOVED all the nicknames that Patrick used when he was talking to Brie (his favorite one was “Cheeto”). I could have done with a little more kissing action, and they weren’t the tingliest couple I’ve ever read about, but I thought their banter was great fun, and their relationship turns out to be more than you originally think.

So even though I liked the characters we met and the voice and the writing, THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg left me feeling…quizzical. Mainly there were inconsistencies with the rules of what a dead person can and cannot do. It’s pointed out that Brie can’t (as a matter of course) touch real, human things as a ghost. At one point, she’s at a party and tries to pick something up and her hand goes right through the bowl. Later, Patrick is able to actually kick a rock and Brie is fascinated by the fact that he was able to touch something in the real world. But just after THAT, Brie is trying to get inside her house and can grip the door and bang on it without going through, with no mention of the fact that she shouldn’t be able to or that she hasn’t yet learned how to focus her energy enough. So, which is it? I have no problem with their being exceptions and whatnot. None at all. I’ve seen Ghost. I get it. I just want to understand the parameters. And sometimes I found those kinds of things missing here. It made understanding what should be possible and what should not hard to get a handle on.

Also, about two-thirds of the way through THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME, though, things got a little bananas. I don’t want to talk about it too much because it’s a way bigger spoiler than I’m comfortable with discussing, but it kind of comes out of nowhere and I’m not sure how I feel about it even now. I mean, it sorts itself out in the end, but up to that point, there was this certain aspect of the book that I was enjoying the most and then this THING happens and all of a sudden that aspect was missing. Things after that were good, but they had been better before. I felt the absence of the the THING, and then stuff got a little weird. So. Thank you for visiting the vagueness portion of my review.

Another thing that grated on my a little bit was that Brie very much acted like a teenager, in good ways and bad. I loved that she was real that way. She very clearly LOVED her friends and her family; she was awesome in the few moments we saw her interact with her little brother; her relationship with Jacob was sweet but flawed; I liked her quite a bit. EXCEPT.  She kind of jumps to this conclusion about why Jacob broke up with her on the night she died, and she jumps WAY HIGH. Basically she–even in death–makes the lives of Jacob and her friends a disaster. I kind of figured out the real reason behind Jacob’s dumping of Brie a while before we were told, so the deeper Brie went with her schemes of ruination and vengeance, the more she made me cringe a little bit, because I was pretty sure that she didn’t have all the facts. It was nice to see her later go about fixing what she had done. Redemption, y’all!

And can I just talk for a second about Hamloaf? THAT DOG WAS THE SWEETNESS. I totally welled up when Ham recognizes Brie’s ghost, and when the two of them go off together later, I just loved their interactions. Guys, I LOVE dogs. And Hammy was loyal, friendly, and adorable.

THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg was good fun, guys, with a likable if imperfect main character who is trying to deal with her own death. It’s bittersweet, funny, emotional, and clever. It’s not without flaws, though, but honestly what book DOESN’T have some? Check this one out, friends, and let me know what you think!

Comments

  1. Hamloaf was so cute! I think I know what you mean about the bananas part of the book when things go a little strange. I liked this book at the time but it hasn’t stuck with me that well for some of the reasons you mentioned. The redemption angle was great though.

    Lovely, thoughtful review Amy!

  2. Random question, but your review made me think of this: Have you ever seen the movie Simply Irresistible? It starts out one way, then goes in another direction, then introduces a theory but never builds on it… there’s really no sense to it but somehow it just works and is one of my favorite movies. I don’t know why because it’s such nonsense but I love it. That’s kind of what this book reminds me of – or at least the way you talk about it. I haven’t read this one yet. Because as you can tell, I’m sort of a fan of the bananas.

    Also, your vagueness portion of your review made me snort-laugh. You’re a hoot. 🙂

  3. I definitely think the plot in this one goes CRAZY in a way you could never really see coming in the beginning – and sometimes I felt a little thrown by little things too (like assumptions she made, etc).

    But still, overall I loved it.

  4. THAT THING THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT – THAT BANANAS MOMENT – I am with you. I did NOT see that coming and it changed the entire book for me in a not so good way, I think. I just couldn’t really grasp the purpose…it just seemed like two entirely different books.

  5. I need to read this IF JUST for the bananas moment!
    And also because her dog is named hamloaf. I mean REALLY.

  6. The chapters are all song titles, and occasionally (on the audio version) the narrator sings the songs! I could gush on and on about my love for this book. Jess Rothenberg has created a wonderful version of the afterlife, and her characters are vivid and lovable! If you’re looking for the perfect mix of heavy and emotional with light and fluffy make-you-swoon romance? This is the book for you!

Trackbacks

  1. […] “It’s bittersweet, funny, emotional, and clever. It’s not without flaws, though, but honestly what book DOESN’T have some?” – Amy @Tripping Over Books […]

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