The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
|The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Romantic afterlife drama in which a girl goes back to fix things after dying of a truly broken heart. Massive teen appeal but Bookbag wasn't completely enthusiastic.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: February 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
When her boyfriend breaks up with her - I don't love you - Brie Eagen literally dies of a broken heart. Truly. Unable to believe the x-rays, her cardiologist father insists on a complete postmortem and it's true - Brie's heart was broken in two and she died. Brie finds herself in an afterlife limbo with other lost souls and meets a boy called Patrick who tells her she must process the five stages of grief before she can hope to move on. But of course, Brie is at the first stage - denial - and doesn't want to move on at all. She wants to stay close to the family and friends she left behind but more than anything, she wants revenge on Jacob, who broke her heart...
Buzz about this debut novel is incredibly positive. Early reviews are great and a great many people say they are looking forward to reading it. So I fear that I'm going to be out on a limb when I say that I wasn't bowled over by Catastrophic History. I shall try to tell you why.
Firstly, it isn't at all original - stories about the newly departed needing to fix what they left behind in the living world before they can move on to the next are ten-a-penny. So to be interesting, you really need to bring something new to the table. And, aside from the notion of a heart physically cleaved in two, Catastrophic History doesn't bring anything new; all the devices are entirely familiar. Secondly, Rothenberg is very keen on using very short, verbless sentences. These can add impact if used sparingly, but include too many and you end up sounding frenetic and rushed. And there are so many teen culture references - chocolate bars, fashion brands, TV shows, even Twilight gets a mention or two - that the book will date far too quickly. Perhaps I was expecting too much given the buzz and the hype, but for me this story just didn't live up to its promise.
Having said all those mean things, however, I should say that Rothenberg captures the mindset of a broken-hearted teenage girl with absolutely perfect precision. Brie is loving but impetuous and her readers will recognise her immediately. The theme of needing to fix what's broken before you can move on may not be a new one, but Rothenberg treats it with great sensitivity as she faithfully follows Brie through the five stages of grief. And the whole thing successfully brings a sweet and romantic flavour that is bound to win it fans.
It wasn't for me, but I think Catastrophic History will prove very popular indeed and - moaning minny that I am - I completely understand why.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver has a similar premise. Far Rockaway by Charlie Fletcher follows a girl in a coma through her near death experience in a world peopled by characters from classic novels. Those who are looking mostly for intense romanticism will love and Drawing with Light by Julia Green and anything by Sarah Dessen.
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