Brie is 15 and has everything to live for – a group of fantastic friends, a wonderful family and her first boyfriend. However when her boyfriend breaks up with her one night over dinner, Brie’s heart breaks. Literally. A lot of teens have thought they might die of a broken heart, but Brie actually does die and when they investigate, the films show she suffered catastrophic heart damage.
She finds herself in a sort of limbo in an alternate universe, hanging out in her favourite pizza place with a bunch of others in the same position as her. There’s a young boy who plays a Nintendo DS, a girl similar in age to Brie…and Patrick. Patrick looks around 17 and he is the first to approach Brie, declaring himself her after-life guardian. He’s a joker, a bit of a trickster with a wicked sense of humour but also a softer side, looking out for Brie as she attempts to negotiate her surroundings and what happened to her. She’s able to go and visit her loved ones, to see what they’re doing and what they’re up to without her and when she declares she wants revenge on her former boyfriend, Patrick is all about helping her get her emotions out and have a little catharsis. But when Brie wants to take it too far, Patrick has reservations and tells her that she needs to reign it in and move forward through her stages of grief.
But Brie isn’t ready to move onto acceptance yet and she banishes Patrick just as cruelly as her boyfriend dumped her when she was still alive. Left alone now to wander the streets, Brie thinks she’s found a friend, someone who understands her and the way she feels. What she doesn’t realise is that she’s about to get herself into a very, very dangerous situation and the only one that can help her is the one she’s sent away. When Brie goes searching for Patrick she will find that they share more of a connection than she ever could’ve thought possible and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance at a happy ever after for her.
I was really excited when I received a review copy of this book because it’s one that has generated steady interest around the book bloggers and I’d heard some pretty fantastic things about it from those who’d been lucky enough to have already read it. It sounded so interesting, different from a lot of the YA that I am currently reading. I had some pretty high expectations and it’s always awesome when a book meets them all!
I found Brie’s pain and bewilderment so well written and easy to sympathize with. She’s so young, so much of her life had lay ahead of her and she’s had all of that taken away from her and now she’s alone in limbo, not sure of what to do next or how to proceed. She’s befriended by Patrick, who is a larger than life personality and confident, well used to doing…whatever it is people do after losing their life. At first Brie is reluctant, she isn’t interested in Patrick’s listing of the stages of grief and his assessment of where she is at, nor does she want him to bother her until it seems that Patrick knows how to get her back to a position where she can see her family – and take revenge on her boyfriend.
Although he could be a bit grating at times, I loved Patrick. If I’d been Brie, there would’ve been times I wanted to send him away too, because at times he was so cheerful and joking that you could just tell that Brie wasn’t ready for it. There was such a lovely depth to him though and I couldn’t help but choke up during the scene when Brie sends him away from her, because his hurt is so perfectly played. Brie doesn’t understand the depths of his devastation at the time, but when she realises what a horrible mistake she’s made, she goes back to find out the truth about Patrick and discovers in turn, the truth about herself.
The Catastrophic History Of You And Me is a fantastic debut, written with humour and also perfectly balanced sadness and emotion. Nailing the grieving teenager is difficult – nailing the grieving teenager who has also just lost her life, is probably next to impossible but I think Jess Rothenberg does an amazing job. I also loved the little added touch of the chapter titles, which are all lines from songs (and you can find a comprehensive list of the songs, their artists, the album each song appeared on and the year of release at the back of the book).
Thoroughly enjoyed this one and highly recommend it.