Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Catastrophic History of You and Me

The Catastrophic History of You and MeAuthor: Jess Rothenberg
Published: February 2nd 2012
Publisher: Puffin
Paperback, 400 pages
Buy: The Book Depository

Confession time: I was pretty sure I would love this book even before it showed up in my mailbox. I loved the title, I liked the cover, and the description sounded really interesting. What I didn’t know, however, was that I wasn’t just signing up for a fun read, I was signing up for heartbreak and some really huge, eye opening lessons. Don’t get me wrong: Catastrophic History of You and Me is often laugh-out-loud funny, but that’s not nearly all it is.

Brie Eagan’s life was perfect: she had a great family, her three best friends and the most wonderful boyfriend a girl could wish for. At least that’s what she thought. But days before her sweet sixteen, her boyfriend Jacob uttered four horrible words that killed Brie on the spot: I don’t love you. It would seem that a young and perfectly healthy person really can die of a broken heart. It didn’t matter that Brie’s father is a famous cardiologist. It didn’t matter that she had so many other things to be happy about. The shock and the hurt of Jacob’s words were too much for Brie’s heart to handle.

At the beginning of our story, Brie opens her eyes to discover that she’s indeed dead, and currently existing in her own version of afterlife, which just happens to be her family’s favorite pizza place. Her company is even more surprising, especially the boy dressed exactly like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. His name is Patrick and he immediately jumps at the chance to be Brie’s guide through afterlife, or at least this part of it. He is kind, thoughtful and the closest thing to an angel Brie is likely to meet. As the two of them go back to observe the aftermath of her death, Brie is forced to accept that her life wasn’t nearly as perfect as she thought it was and slowly fight her way through five stages of grief.
Here’s just a small taste of denial:

This is all just a bad dream, I told myself. I’m totally in bed, totally safe, totally snuggled. Hamloaf’s next to me. Jack’s down the hall. Everything is okay. But still, why the crazy nightmare? I must have eaten something funky. Or maybe I have a history test coming up. Or I’d forgotten to floss.

In my experience, books that strike me the most are the ones that successfully mix humor and tragedy. One of the recent stellar examples is Looking for Alaska. Jess Rothenberg does this extraordinarily well. She knows when to lighten the mood with a joke, and when to stop with the humor entirely. She knows exactly how much tragedy her reader can take and when it’s time to water it down with one of Patrick’s nicknames for Brie or something similar. It is a valuable skill, and one that pretty much guarantees that I’ll read her next novel, and the one after that.

Here’s another thing I should mention, one I’m pretty sure some of my friends will appreciate. (I won’t be naming names, though.) Seeing as Patrick had died in the 80s and he’s dressed according to the fashion of 1983 or so, every chapter is titled after a song, a huge part of them from the 80s, and there is a four-page long playlist at the end of the book. I played most of them while reading this book and felt like a lost time traveler most of the time – but in a very good way.

An advanced copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, Puffin/Razorbill UK for review purposes.


  1. Okay, normally I would walk right by a book like this. Cutesy has never really been my thing, though I am occasionally surprised. You have made this sound so captivating, I now want to read this TOO!

  2. Should I expect to receive a bill from you come December, Chels? :)

  3. Sounds good! I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Maja. It's always great when an author manages to create the right balance of humor in a story like this. Yet another one to add to my TBR, I think. ;)

  4. Maja this book sounds so cute and unique..dying of a broken heart, afterlife in a pizza place, hot Top Gun guy ( before Tom Cruise became weird and not hot) a pet named Hamloaf. I totally want to read this!

  5. "In my experience, books that strike me the most are the ones that successfully mix humor and tragedy."

    Yes! Excellent point. Books like that have the same effect on me too.

    Fantastic review, Maja.

  6. I have no idea if I am one of the people you think would love the 80s song titles but I would. (well, WILL, because I am excited to read this book) Also, is the dog's name Hamloaf? That is hilarious:)

    I also love books that mix sadness and laughter. It is so hard to do skillfully.

  7. I've been looking forward to this book for ages and your review is making me even more excited. Great review, thanks so much!

  8. Thank you so much for bringing this one to my attention, Maja! I mean, this book sounds so awesome! that whole mix of tragedy and sweet and humor you're mentioning makes me want to pick it up right away... Definitely on my wishlist now!

    Ron @ Stories of my life

  9. This sounds really good and I love when books include music references as well!


  10. Great review! You have a great way of giving the atmosphere of the book without spoiling anything for the reader. I'm a new follower and grabbed your button for my blog. Thanks for stopping by my blog, too! I appreciated your comment!

  11. Yes! The dog's name is Hamloaf and he's the most adorable dog ever. Really, this was such a great, heartwarming reading experiences, I'm happy that you guys want to read it too.

    Heidi, he WAS hot back then, but he is so not hot anymore. *shudders* So sad.

  12. I also love humor in any kind of book! I already had my eye on this one so it sounds wonderful. And.. Hamloaf? I won't comment on that O_O

  13. AAAAAAAAAAAAAA you already read it!! How cool :) I can't wait to read it myself :)

  14. The synopsis had me giving the side eye to the whole "heart so broken she died" concept but your review has me reconsidering this one!

  15. I'm so jealous. I need this book. Also, I've nominated you for an award! You can find it here: http://theatticreviews.blogspot.com/2012/02/lovely-blog-award.html


Thank you for stopping by and commenting. If you're a fellow blogger, I'll visit and return the favor as soon as possible. If your're using Google+ to comment, please make sure that your blog link is clearly visible on your profile.

Unfortunately, this is now an award and tag free blog, but I do thank you for your consideration.