When The Catastrophic History of You and Me was coming up to its release date and all the reviews were coming in, I was completely hooked on the idea...moreWhen The Catastrophic History of You and Me was coming up to its release date and all the reviews were coming in, I was completely hooked on the idea of this book and immediately put it on my wishlist. Although I'm not the hugest fan of paranormal stories, books that deal with the afterlife are something I find infinitely fascinating. But it took me over a year to actually buy a copy because it kind of got bumped down the list a little.
The Catastrophic History of You and Me doesn't wait to get straight into the story - Brie's death happens pretty quickly and then combines flashbacks with the current day storyline. The flashbacks are not that frequent, and are used to give context to the current storyline, but for me it was the right balance - too many flashbacks probably would have had me a little bored.
Whilst I loved Brie's snarky, smart-arse personality, I didn't immediately feel a lot of affinity with her, or sympathy for her situation. I like my female characters with a bit of baggage, and Brie's 'life' was a little too charmed for me - with a great family and three BFF's, without the quick plunge into the afterlife I honestly would have found her a little irritating. However, Rothenberg does a good job of getting the action going early on and that made me feel more sympathetic towards Brie.
The relationship between Brie and Patrick is incredibly sweet without being overwhelming - they bounce off each other with a natural ease and although Patrick is quite protective of Brie, it's not overwhelming.
There is also an emphasis on Brie's growth which I particularly liked - at the beginning she comes across as a little overly-dramatic, but as she comes to terms with her own death, she also realises some things about her 'previous' life, and how she had actually interpreteded things a little immaturely, and tries to make amends for that.
The afterlife that Rothenberg creates is an interesting one - based on the idea of a personal heaven, with the option to 'zoom' back into the real world and see what is happening to her family and friends is a pull that Brie, understandably, cannot resist. But I did find it became a little too complicated later in the story, and I actually got a little lost and frustrated with this book for a while because it felt like things were made far more complicated than necessary, without a great deal of explanation why.
If I was asked to describe The Catastrophic History of You and Me in three words, I'd say Fun, Cute, Sweet. It's not a book that had me gasping in shock, feeling a little misty eyed or swooning over the romance, but it was a fun read, and one that I would definitely recommend if you need something light and entertaining.(less)
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is full of musical references, has a main character that really stands out from the crowd and is a story about the d...moreBeautiful Music for Ugly Children is full of musical references, has a main character that really stands out from the crowd and is a story about the difficulties of growing up and finding yourself when you are considered ‘different’.
Gabe is transgender and has always known he should have been born a boy. He’s also incredibly comfortable in his own skin and identity as a boy – something which I found really refreshing as a trans character. His parents and best friend know his ‘secret’ but to everyone else, including all the kids at his school, he is still Liz. Gabe is also incredibly passionate about music, a passion he shares with his next-door neighbour John.
Although BMfUG is at the core about Gabe’s need to belong and feel like himself in a society that isn’t particularly accepting of him, it also felt like a coming-of-age story that anyone could relate to. Gabe knows what his passions are and where he wants his life to lead, he’s just not exactly sure how to get there. He dejays a late night radio slot, and through his music he finds a place to belong – if only as a voice over the airwaves.
Gabe also has a crush on his childhood best friend, Paige. And whilst in theory it sounded like a great idea, Gabe’s a little flippy-floppy and alternates between crushing on Paige and crushing on other girls. Although that’s probably far more common in teenage boys than I would have imagined at that age, it made him feel a little flighty and at certain stages I did lose a little respect for him as a character.
There were also a few unresolved plot lines, both of which were key parts of Gabe’s story and I found that really frustrating. I can deal with minor plot lines petering out, but major ones that affect key characters just kind of fizzling made it hard for me to completely fall in love with BMfUG.
Fresh, open and crammed with music references, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a book about trying to figure out where you belong, combined with some difficult situations that felt incredibly realistic and ultimately pretty satisfying.(less)