Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Comes Next: The Catastrophic History of You and Me

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Dial Books, 2012

There are a whole lot of novels out there that take on the question of what happens to us after we die. I remember reading Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven while I was in high school, and while I really enjoyed it, I also had trouble connecting to it because the protagonist was an 80 year old man who had lived a long and full life. It wasn't exactly a comfort when I thought of the much younger people I knew who passed away.

So when I got my hands on a copy of this book, I was excited and appropriately nervous given the very delicate topic it was about to handle. Actually, I've been anxious to read it ever since I read my first blurb on it a few months ago, and I'm happy to say I was not disappointed.

Just a few weeks before her 16th birthday, Brie is on a date with her boyfriend when she hears the four words no one ever wants to hear: "I don't love you." The declaration breaks her heart, literally, and she dies right then and there. Now she is in the world beyond of the Dead & Gone, working through the five stages of grief before she can truly move on to heaven and the afterlife. Accompanied by Patrick, her life-after-death guide to this strange place she now finds herself in, Brie continues to watch the family and friends she left behind, learn the truth behind her boyfriend's betrayal, and try to (figuratively) mend her broken heart so she can get on with forever.

This is one of the strongest debut novels I have read recently. The voice is fresh. The situation is handled in a way that felt very realistic. Brie's pain and the pain her family and friends are all navigating was incredibly spot-on. I also loved the little touches throughout the book that, as the story went on, subtly added up to something much bigger in the plot that I hadn't seen coming (like how every chapter is named after a song, mostly from the 80s). Even though she has died and Brie is now eternally barely-not-16, she still shows a lot of growth as she comes to accept the person she was, truths about the people she loved, and make peace with all that has happened.

My only criticism is that towards the end, there may have been just a twist too many, making my emotions and thought process go "huh? Really?" but that's nothing compared to the many positives of this story. I'm also very sad that this is the only Jess Rothenberg novel out there right now because I'm incredibly anxious to read more from this talented and thoughtful new voice in YA.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jess Rothenberg's Website
Jess Rothenberg on Twitter


  1. Great review! Look forward to checking this out! :)

    1. It'll be a good life choice when you do!