Full disclosure: I picked up this ARC at the Northern California Bookseller’s Association Trade Show.
Here is the official blurb from the publisher:
THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU & ME
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?
At the outset, the premise didn’t grab me. There, I said it. I know this book has a ton of buzz, but honestly, a girl dies of heartbreak? It didn’t snag me. But on a Sunday afternoon, I needed something different to read and I picked it up.
There is a lot to recommend about the book. First, the voice. Brie is fifteen and she dies at the start of the story when her boyfriend breaks up with her. We follow her on a journey through the five stages of grieving. She haunts her boyfriend, parents, little brother, and best friends, watching them grieve for her. This could all feel very maudlin, but Jess Rothenberg manages to steer clear of that. The voice is so exactly that of a fifteen year old girl, full of sass and sadness and naiveté and the odd moment of wisdom. That voice hooked me right away.
I also loved how we are carried through the five stages of grieving. There’s a lot of meat there for anyone to relate to, whether you’ve broken up with someone or lost someone close. Brie’s emotions bounce all over the place, but they almost always feel real. She’s not always a nice character, but she’s a believable one. In fact, she’s probably more believable because of her faults.
There were some things – fairly big things for me – that bothered me about the story. A few scenes felt unnecessary or repetitive. Brie’s love of 80’s music didn’t ring true for a contemporary teen – I felt like it was author intrusion into the story every time they were mentioned. And, I hate to say it, but the love interest plotline fell flat for me, especially at the big dramatic moment at the end.
What saved the book for me, though, aside from the wonderful, engaging voice and interesting format, were the relationships Brie had with her friends and family and even her dog, Hamloaf. Before she dies, Brie has a kind of simplistic view of her world. After her death, when she gets peeks into the private lives of those she haunts, she learns that the world is not what she thought it would be. That people are more complex. That sometimes they are weak and fail you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. I thought Rothenberg did a fantastic job illustrating this, and despite the problems I noted, I think a lot of readers will love this book.
Check out the links below to see what the other Bookanistas are talking about!
Elana Johnson roars for FURY
Shannon Whitney Messenger marvels at A MILLION SUNS plus a preorder giveaway
Carolina Valdez Miller is all about HERE with giveaway
Gretchen McNeil twirls for AUDITION
Stasia Ward Kehoe is wild for DON’T BREATHE A WORD
Katy Upperman gets in the spirit with ELF ON A SHELF
Nikki Katz dishes on WHY WE BROKE UP