The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg, published by Puffin on 2nd February 2012
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 in heaven, 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 knows 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's been D&G (dead and gone) much longer than she? and 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?
This is the perfect book if you're looking for a Valentine's Day read with a twist. Have you ever felt like your heart has broken in two after the end of a romance? Well for Brie that's quite literally what happens when her boyfriend tells her that he doesn't love her and her heart breaks in half. She ends up in the after life, looking back on her friends, family and ex-boyfriend Jacob trying to cope after her death. 'The Catastrophic History of You and Me' was one of those books which is about love and romance and boyfriends but more importantly focuses on the personal journey that Brie herself has to go through. It's a book which comes with some unexpected surprises but will also make you treasure your own life even more after reading it.
I thought the idea for the story was incredibly clever and unusual and the book turned out to be a surprisingly funny read that was full of humour at the most unexpected times. I found this created a good balance in the story between some of the deeply tragic events and those which were more uplifting. One of my favourite things was the way in which the story is divided into sections, each representing one of the five stages of grief that Brie has to pass through before she can rest in peace.
Guiding her in the afterlife is the enigmatic Patrick who there's a lot more to than you first think. I wasn't sure how much I actually liked Patrick to begin with but as I grew to understand more about him and as his character developed, I ended up really looking forward to the moments when he appeared. I was dying to know what secret he was keeping hidden about himself and when the big reveal came I wasn't disappointed. I genuinely had no clue at all which doesn't usually happen to me.
I have to also just briefly mention Brie's totally adorable bassetthound called Hamloaf, who is still able to see her after she dies. He's one of my favourite characters in the book and I loved the bond they shared. He's one of the things which still anchors her to her old life and when she eventually comes to accept that she has to let him go, it almost broke my heart too!
This is an impressive debut from an author who both delighted and surprised me in equal measure. The ending was perfectly written and was so bittersweet and touching that it brought tears to my eyes. Be warned - have a box of tissues at the ready to read this wonderful book!