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 in heaven, 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 knows 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’s been D&G (dead and gone) much longer than she… and 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? – Goodreads
In The Catastrophic History of You & Me Brie dies from a broken heart at the tender age of fifteen. Dramatic? Yes, but Jess Rothenberg expanded this somewhat silly-sounding storyline into a heartfelt novel that tugged at my heart strings.
“I don’t love you” are the words that bring Brie’s life to a screeching halt. While this simple sentence could be damaging enough for anyone, for Brie it breaks her heart in two — literally. The book follows Brie into the afterlife as she goes through the five stages of grief. There were certainly depressing parts throughout, and it was easy to feel the anger and loss that Brie went through, but Rothenberg also managed to infuse humor and charm. The chapter titles taken from songs (“The Cheese Stands Alone”, “I Was Walking With a Ghost” being examples) were a delight and Brie’s relationship with Patrick, her guide in heaven, was wonderfully paced and developed.
The book not only delved into Brie’s personal mourning, but it also gave a look into the life of her loved ones following her death. The dynamic of her family was completely shaken up and I think Rothenberg was able to grasp the loneliness and isolation that many can feel after the loss of someone. In addition to that, Rothenberg touched on the “glue” that holds friends together. Brie’s group of friends was absolutely loyal and I loved getting a look at their bond. Strong friendships are always a highlight for me in my reads and that was definitely present in this book. Finally, there’s Jacob, the boy who broke Brie’s heart. It was easy to grow fond of him as Brie thought back to their relationship, but just as easy to feel the rejection from his initial confession. Still, it was made clear that he, too, greatly suffered from Brie’s death and that he carried so much guilt. Rothenberg didn’t simplify any of the character’s emotions and instead made all of them, and their relationships, fully layered.
Overall, I found this to be a quirky, charming read that managed to capture the honesty of love, loss, forgiveness, and all the other gory bits of life (and death) and growing up. Jess Rothenberg offers a refreshing voice to the YA genre and I will definitely look forward to what she writes next!
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