Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

The Catastrophic History of You and Me
by Jess Rothenberg

Release: February 21, 2012
Author Info: Website
Publisher: Dial
Age Group: Young Adult
Challenge: 2012 Debut Author

Rating:  1/5

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?

Please, prepare yourself for a negative review that is lengthy, and I completely understand if you skip to the bottom for my overall opinion. That said, the length of this review is based around qualities of the book I felt should be addressed. In an attempt to make this simpler, I have separated the review into sections for better understanding of my reasons for a negative rating and review. Thank you.

 May Contain Spoilers!

I did try to avoid spoilers but due to the nature of a negative review there are some I could not simply leave out in order to state my opinion.

First let's sort a few things out.

The overall idea and plot of this book, I thought it sounded very unique and interesting. Sadly, it was hidden under a lot of a bad qualities that I felt overall didn't live up to my expectations. The more I read, the more I was let down by generally poor decisions, back story, and writing. I'm sorry, but I found the level of writing in this book very poor.

The entire book walks along a fuzzy line of the past and present that never seems to stop colliding, leaving me feeling very confused about exactly what's going on, when, and where. I understand Brie is dead, that a lot of her time is spent reliving her past and memories, but it seems a lot of the time the story just took a detour and got lost somewhere along the way of a memory and sudden snaps back in an attempt to return to the present. It kept leaving me with whiplash trying to figure out what was what and which point in time we were trying to address.

With that out of the way, I would like to split this review into three sections: Writing, Characters, and Story.

The Writing:

Oh My God. I can't explain how much this book danced along one of my biggest pet peeves; making references, name dropping, and generally trying too hard.
If Brie was "OMG" about something it was Capitalized with a C. I'm Not Kidding! Also, if it wasn't a brand name, it wasn't worth mentioning; Coach, L.L. Bean, iPhone, Nintendo DS, North Face, and so many more. Along with every chapter being named after lyrics from songs. (80's songs since Brie loved them so much. I'm pretty sure it was every chapter, I knew most of them without double checking, but as there are 46 chapter, I stopped paying attention after a while.) It's to the point I want to almost scream "Come ON get your own material!"

There is a clever sly sort of way to work in a reference or an inside joke into written material, blurting it out like "I check her iPhone" is not the way to do it. (Also it makes the book dated, because it will be sooner or later, this just makes it sooner.)
First two pages there are SIX of them. SIX. "Wesley and Buttercup", The Princess Bride, "Harry and Sally", When Harry Met Sally, "Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy", Pride and Prejudice.
It got to the point I made a bookmark (reading on a Kindle) every time there was a reference/brand name. 30% in and at least 75 of them. 70% in and at least 145. Almost 200 (approximately as I got tired of counting) references by the end of the book. THAT IS NOT OKAY.
This style of writing makes my blood boil.

Some chapters had none, I loved those chapters very much, then one would be every other sentence making sure we know how cool and 'hip' (as my mother would say) that Brie and her friends were so that we knew they were from our time and could relate them. Sad to say, I couldn't.

I should mention how much it bothers me to see the use of words like 'epic'. Epic is not a word anyone should ever use. (I hate the way I’m going to explain this..) Think of the word “swag”. It's one of those things, if you use the word, you don't have it or in this case "It isn't [epic]". You're trying to [have swag] but you're failing to. It is not an 'epic party' if someone says it is. It just has to be. That's probably just preference, but that's my preference.

Also, your mom jokes aren't funny either. Well they are, but not when you try to use them. There is a level of lame that is okay, trust me I'm the lamest person I know, and even I don't find this okay. And I find a lot of lame things to be okay, in both the sense of being clever and enjoyable, but this was neither.

I do not find this sort of writing acceptable. Ever. To the point I don't know how this got printed. I'm sorry but I just don't get it.

The Characters:

I found them… annoying.

Brie is 15 and so naive to the world. Having her first love dump her, she drops dead at the words "I don't love you." and everything spirals into darkness. She is FIFTEEN. Knows nothing of the world but 'knows' that he is the only thing she will ever want and love. To the point her heart breaks. After they had only been dating for 11 months, in high school, at the age of 15. That isn't love, that is… childish.

I could not relate to Brie or any of the characters what so ever. Brie in a word is childish. She is selfish, naive, and single-minded. In the beginning we are introduced to this sweet loving girl who cares for everyone, who is then lost after she dies. She literally flips and does a 180 personality wise and cares for no one but herself. Sure it was her life and she is the one having to move on while reliving every moment of her pain, her life, and what's become of 'her world' now that she is gone, but she only sees herself once she's dead.
Constantly she says how sorry she is for something or how wrong she knows it is, but does it anyways. That "I want my way, so I will do THIS." followed by doing something that made the situation much worse and probably hurting someone in the process, but HEY she got her way.

How does that make it better? You only feel bad about it later and think "What have I done." Something I personally can't stand.

The entire story she is followed by Patrick and NEVER bothers to ask (almost) anything about him or try to know him when he's clearly there to help. She is forever absorbed in herself to the point she can't even look at the amazing world around her. All she sees is "I'm dead, nothing matters anymore."

I loved Patrick, I know some people won't, but I did. He's very sarcastic and I love em' sarcastic, with just a pinch of strong and silent, and with a horrible (or great, depending on your view) sense of humour! Along with the fact the cheese themed nick-names didn't bother me. I thought they were cute and thoughtful. Well other than Cheeto, I hated that one. What I really disliked was him calling her "Angel" and how often he did. That's one of my "Not okay" pet names. I think it's strange to call a girl "Angel". (I also had a cat named Angel once and I miss her dearly…)

The Story:

I found the story to be filled with great ideas, seriously 'zooming' is brilliant, however I feel there are a lot of things that just didn't fit in or weren't explained properly. There were times where I was confused about what a 'ghost' could and could not do. Such as a heartbeat, Brie's doesn't have one but others do? Now was that because hers was broken or simply because she was dead?
Little things here and there that were just let out having to guess what the 'rules of the world' were. I feel that should never happen. (It should at times be questioned by the character, but sorted out sooner or later.)

Along with how poorly the back story was filled in. Brie is only 15 when she died meaning she was almost 14 when her and Jacob started dating, that's nothing. They were and still are children. And the fact they were only dating for 11 months, that's not a long time in my opinion. You're a freshman in high school, what are you doing already having a boyfriend to the point of putting everything into that relationship and seeing nothing else. To the point of sex being brought up, at 15, you're joking right?!

Towards the end of the book things really fell apart, along with getting weird as the ending was closing in. Granted the story is about, and is separated into, the stages of death. Each one has its own sort of events and problems that Brie has to work through to move to the next stage, sometimes even when she doesn't want to or mean to she ends up there. But, around the end it got all weird and kind of… adult in my opinion. The whole thing about trading and then the island, which I found very disturbing. Although moments on that island were very moving…
Over time Brie 'matured', I really didn't see it. She just started acting different all of a sudden. I guess being mature means you're suddenly more understanding, accepting, and forgiving in the world.

The ending left me with my jaw on the floor going "WHAT just happened?!" Completely left field, I did not get where that came from. Maybe I get where it came from, but it makes no sense in the story. Everything leads up to this big moment and no real shock or awe, just a simple "Oh, that's how it is."
WHAT?! What kind of ending is that?!

There are a few things that threw me for a bit of a loop. Random curse words popped up once in a while, which just struck me as odd. Usually it was by an adult, because the 'kids' danced around using them, but because it was an adult it was okay?

In the end… I can't tell you how iffy I am about this book but due to the bad qualities that I personally cannot overlook are the things what largely affect my rating.

This entire book is based around love, I'm sure it was meant to be the 'importance' of love but honestly I found it to be based around how important it is to have love and for all the wrong reasons. You do not put everything to the point where your life falls apart, on the approval of someone's love. Ever. Not a great image to be sending out to young adults.
Towards the end I think the book tried to sort it's self out and set everything straight, but the damage was done. The world doesn't wave a magic wand and fix everything, not happy endings for everyone, not perfectness after the mess.
Although you do fix your mess, which is something I strongly believe.

I couldn't give this book 2 stars, I just couldn't. It has some good points and to someone it might be a great story, but that person wasn't me. Maybe if I was a 15 year old like Brie I might have been able to relate and understand more. Being in my early 20s, I thought Brie and her story was just too childish.

Unless you're looking for a 15 year old girl who is obsessed with her boyfriend the book really isn't worth the time. This book had an interesting idea that just got lost in the mess of a story that didn't quite hold together.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I couldn't make myself do it. I found it to be a very large disappointment. Not worth my time reading.

Recommend: Younger teens, broken-hearted, young romance.


  1. This is a great negative review! I find it so hard to write a review of a book that I didn't like and it's hard to find the words to explain how I felt, without feeling bad for the author. But at the same time, I do find it encouraging when I read a book that is truly horrible. I think to myself that, if this book got published, then it can't be THAT hard to find a publisher who will publish MY book, right? Right? There's hope for us struggling writers if bad writing can hit the shelves AND be popular =P

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I told a friend I'd read this and didn't enjoy it, which helped me talk about the book before writing a review for it.
      It was difficult to post this because I fought with myself about if I should or not. In the end I decided if I have a negative opinion I should be able to back that up.
      Even in the negative reviews I try to find some positive notes to make.

      We totally have a chance! :D
      Although I think it's mostly about luck and determination. Finding the right person, having the right timing, and never giving up to find that.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment on timing and finding the right person, and I was just talking to my husband about this the other day (he's an aspiring writer as well). The book that I'm working on centres around a young girl's experiences with bullying, and I commented that it just needs to cross the desk of an editor who was bullied as a child, and then I'm in. So far it's only been read by three male editors, and I just don't think that they have the right viewpoint to really identify with the story =P

    1. Aww, that just rotten luck. You sound confident though, which is always good! Have to keep trying.
      I have a friend that's gotten at least 6 rejections this past year. Poor girl, she's really starting to get depressed about it.
      It's a difficult road and it's hard to support someone when they get rejected, because they really have is to stay positive and keep trying.

  3. I'm behind then -- I only have three rejection letters. But I haven't even LOOKED at the book for the last year -- just letting it sit and age, like a fine wine ;-) I'm planning to do a rewrite during spring/summer and then resubmit in the fall. *fingers crossed*

    1. Sounds like a plan! Good luck to you. *crosses fingers*

  4. a 1 star review? wow. Just looking at the cover, I knew I wouldn't care much about the book, but now that I've read your review, I KNOW for sure I won't ever bother myself with it.LOL

    1. I actually like the cover, compared to the original. Which is horrid looking.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Before I read the book I hadn't seen any negative review around. After reading, I went looking for them, and found they had similar things to say about the writing, characters, and story.