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This. Book. Wins. If this had been the book given to me as my first foray into comtemporary YA -- and granted, it has supernatural elements, what with the MC being dead and all -- anyway, had this been my first contemporary read, it might have easily led me to decide that contemps were my favorite subgenre. Instead, I've shied away from most anything contemporary and consistently read paranormals with a heavy dose of romance to satisfy my cravings. This book may have changed all that. Don't think that means that I'll forego supernatural stories in favor of lighter, fluffier reads. But I will give all contemps a second thought, instead of immediately dismissing them due to their lack of imaginary beasties.
The Catastrophic History of You & Me is not a book I'll soon forget. It's cute, funny, heart-breaking, sad, beautiful, honest, and a whole slew of other adjectives. Pretty much, I ran a full gamut of emotions while reading this novel. I teared up -- okay, bawled like a baby because I tend to be overly sentimental -- twice within the first two chapters alone. But I also laughed -- a lot -- throughout the book. And I swooned...oh, did I swoon.
Basically, this book takes you through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) as Brie deals with each of them after her death. And she's got dreamy lost soul Patrick to help her through them. (Cue the swooning.) I absolutely adored the voice given to Brie. She's witty and sarcastic and well, adorable, even when she makes some questionable decisions. But honestly, who among us wouldn't take the opportunity to spy on our loved ones after we're gone?
The story was one of redemption, of love lost and found again, and of understanding and compassion when others need it most. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle hints placed throughout the story, and though I figured out what was really going on half-way through, I was still pleasantly surprised at how it came to fruition. It was slightly predictable without being obvious. Also, the chapters are titled after songs, some of them popular love songs, some of them corny songs from the 80s. And Brie herself is a big fan of 80s music. Because I really needed a reason to love her more.
You want to know something else I've decided I like about contemporary novels? A lot of them are stand-alone novels. I love a good series as much as the next girl, but sometimes, you just want to finish a novel in one sitting and revel in that sense of accomplishment, in knowing how the story ends without having to wait for the next installment. So, there's another plus for this story...as if I needed another one. :) I will recommend this debut novel to everyone, and I mean everyone. And if there's any doubt as to why, see the first paragraph of this review again. It's not everyday that a novel can convert me to the lighter side of YA.
And now, one of my favorite passages from the book. (Mind you, this is taken from the ARC I received and may not appear in the final version of the novel...but I'll be really sad to find out if it doesn't make the cut.)
From pages 42 - 44:
I crossed my arms and clenched my jaw, feeling my inner five-year-old beginning to act out. "I. Don't. Have. A. Pen."
She pointed at my right hand. "Yes. You. Do."
Before I could argue with her, I realized that actually, I did have a pen. Right in my hand, ready to go. I almost fell off my chair.
How the hell did that get there?!
The weirdest part? I recognized it.
It was the exact same pen I'd had back in third grade. Back when I was an even bigger dork who got so excited I couldn't sleep before School Supply Shopping Day.
The pen was white on top and sky blue on bottom, with six (six!) color options, depending on which button you pushed down. You could even press two buttons down at the same time and mix the colors. (I know.) To a third-grade bookworm who'd spent her entire summer practicing her signature in cursive, this pen was a complete and total thing of beauty.
I'd left it in my desk one Friday afternoon, but when I looked for it the following Monday morning, it was gone. We're talking Real Life Elementary School Tragedy.
But then, in a very suspicious turn of events, Chloe Lutz--a girl who wore her hair in pigtails every day, for god's sake--showed up with a similar (and by similar I mean identical) pen a few days later.
Et tu, Chloe?
I knew she took it. Emma, Sadie, and Tess knew she took it. But tattling wasn't an option because our teacher Mrs. Arden had a very harsh No-Tattling policy. I wanted to confront her at recess, but I figured that was a bad idea, considering a) she was a whole foot taller than me and b) she was a brown belt in karate.
In the end, I spent the whole rest of that school year watching Chloe have the time of her life pushing my beloved color buttons. Red! No, blue! Oh, isn't this fun?
Yes, Chloe Slutz, of course it's fun. That is obviously why I bought it.
And now, all these years later, here I was in a grungy pizza parlor in Half Moon Bay, dead since Monday, and holding the very same World's Greatest Pen.
First, I had that pen! Second, I think that passage highlights how funny and normal Brie is, and it gives you a little insight into her character.
Not a huge fan of the trailer, but here it is anyway: