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The Catastrophic History of You and Me
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 15-year-old Brie dies of a broken heart at the beginning of the book and heads to the afterlife. So expect plenty of why-me's and grieving as she sorts through what it was all about. With her guide Patrick she pulls some pranks on the living out of revenge -- causing one broken leg in the process. Scenes in the afterlife include a creepy island where the dead waste away. Brie flashes back to her life and recalls phoning her best friend when she was ecstatic after losing her virginity, and one character comes out as gay. Swearing doesn't go beyond "s--t," uttered about 10 times.
What's the story?
Brie can't believe that four words could end her life, but they did. When her boyfriend Jacob says, \"I don't love you,\" her heart breaks in two. She witnesses family and friends in a state of disbelief and her own funeral. When she's buried the journey starts to the afterlife. It's a place much like her favorite pizza place on Earth with other teens sitting around all day -- inclduing Patrick, in his '80s leather jacket, who offers to guide her through the difficult steps that lead to acceptance that she's now in the great beyond. But first he takes her back to Earth to get some closure -- and perhaps a little revenge in the process. Everything is more of a mess than Brie could possibly have realized. Her family is breaking up, and is that really her best friend making the moves on her boyfriend?
Is it any good?
The idea of this novel will grab many teens; the drama of love and loss and the afterlife and revenge all rolled into one. It's a big undertaking for a first-time author, and she's bitten off more than she can chew. Brie's afterlife is intriguing (mmm ... pizza) and the mysterious Patrick as a guide is a nice touch, but Brie's revenge plots are petty and overdone and her angsty wallowing is almost as bad. It makes her hard to like and harder to root for.
Then there are a couple of key moments -- like major revelations about Brie's father and her boyfriend -- where the storyline just drops off and barely gets picked up later. The ending swirls around even more ideas about redemption and past lives that make the whole ambitious package too muddled for most readers to sort through.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of dark teen novels. How does this one lighten up the idea of the afterlife? Does it do a good job?
Is this view of the afterlife similar to yours? Brie gets unlimited pizza in her afterlife. What food would you choose?
What do you think of Brie's revenge? Is it sweet or petty?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.