When it comes to recommending books, I find it can be difficult to pitch a series to friends. Maybe it’s because cliffhangers are The Enemy, only made worse when the book comes out a year later (I’m talking to you, Catching Fire!) It could also be that sometimes a nice, stand-alone novel is the perfect thing to cozy on up with after a long week. With that in mind, I want to recommend a recently-discovered gem of a story by debut author Jess Rothenberg: The Catastrophic History of You and Me.
In the novel, the main character Brie’s life ends at the age 16, when she literally dies of a broken heart after her boyfriend tells her that he doesn’t love her. Fortunately, heaven isn’t so bad. There’s delicious pizza, and a hot Lost Soul named Patrick who helps guide Brie past the five stages of grief so she can move on with her afterlife.
Let’s see where The Catastrophic History of You and Me lands on the Figment Scale of Awesome:
+178 for making death uplifting.
Death can be a bummer. Having to watch your family and friends suffer with grief isn’t my idea of a good time–not to mention the whole being dead part–but Jess accomplishes the pretty impressive feat of depicting death as something worth living. (See what I did there?!)
-87 for getting oldies stuck in your head.
“Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Ooh, heaven is a place on earth! They say in heaven, love comes first…” Oh, Belinda Carlisle. You’re not a voice I enjoy having stuck in my head for hours at a time, even if your music is really catchy. I’m more of a Smiths kind of guy. Whatever your flavor is, all the chapters are named after song titles or lyrics–so you’re bound to get a song or two stuck in your head that you probably don’t want in there.
+93 for the crazy twists.
I gotta warn you, the author throws a pretty unorthodox twist into the midst of her debut novel that had my head spinning. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I expect you’ll be tweeting at the author frantically like I did when you come across it.
+100 for the title.
This book had so many possibilities for one-word titles. Afterlife or Catastrophe or Heartbroken could all have done the trick. But no. We’re treated to a title with many, many words, and we’re happy about that.
+200 for alerting us to danger.
Fact: There have been cases of hearts literally breaking. I didn’t know this. I bet you didn’t know this either. I know what you’re thinking: Link or it isn’t true! My rebuttal? LINK! Bam! You just got educated!
+75 for shout-outs to the Disney Princesses.
Brie and all her pals took a very official and important “Which Disney Princess Are You?” quiz, and it made me wonder in turn: which Disney Princess would I be? Snow White, perhaps? I’m at least as pale and, since I’m so tall, am constantly surrounded by little people.
That brings The Catastrophic History of You and Me to a total of 459 points! It’s a cute read with a charming romance that unfolds during an exploration of life and death. But maybe the best part? A definitive ending (afterlives excluded). For those with broken hearts or limited reading time this weekend, it’s just what the doctor ordered.