Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
Little, Brown and Company, 352 Pages
US Release Date: December 27, 2011
Challenges: Local Library Challenge

I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
-----------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
"I won't," I said, and it was true. But it was just true then. "I'll never change my mind."

Reading this book is like getting into that relationship you know is bad for you but you just can't help it. You know it's going to end. Sometime. And probably not well. But you get into it anyway because you can't resist it. Along the way you start to like it, believe that hey, maybe this will end up ok...but it never, ever does.

In a way, I want to call this book predictable; but that's almost the point, isn't it? The fact is, Min and Ed have broken up and what you are reading is her letter to him, what she's writing to put in a box filled with all his things that she's giving back.  You know that box: the relationship box. Filled with all those little nothings and somethings we store of a person we love, the one that makes us smile when we see when we're in love and that makes our hearts ache and throats tear as they scream bloody murder when we're still in love but the other is not.

I was so invested in their relationship I felt like I was right along with Min. I never really got the Ed Slaterton appeal - he's too much like every asshole jock I knew in high school and disliked immediately - but I get her relationship and how she could love him so. Especially when he said the 26 "i'm sorrys" -- definitely got me.  It's the perfect high school relationship, with all the highs and lows and questions and doubts and laughs in between.  Min is funny and a spot-on teenage girl: kind of arrogant and pretentious with big dreams mixed in with insecurity and 'oh my god did i do that right's.  Ed was framed well, since you know he's done something to break up the relationship; but you still kind of like him, in an inexplicable way. He's got moments of sweetness and real thoughtfulness, which only make you hate him more at the end.

I was disappointed in Al, I have to admit. From the beginning I knew what he would function as and what he would end up as, and I felt like he was never expanded to more than that. Maybe he didn't necessarily have to be, but he was easily my favourite, and I wanted more.

I have to mention the illustrations, which were perfect and fit right alongside Daniel Handler's writing style - they're realistic and detailed and almost an entire story in themselves, too. 

The back of this book says "Min and Ed's story of heartbreak may remind you of your own."  I scoffed at that when I first read it because I'm nothing like Min and none of the boys who broke my heart are remotely like Ed; but when I shut the book and saw it again -- it's completely true. This book is filled with all the painful intricacies of heartbreak, how one item can be an encapsulation of everything that went wrong.  And it's a little bit painful, but a lot beautiful.

4 Stars / 5


  1. Pocketful of BooksApril 4, 2012 at 11:12 PM

    Aww this sounds sad! I don't tend to like books all about relationships and break ups but this looks intriguing and I love the cover! Also, I didn't know it had illustrations- that makes me want to check it out! x

  2. fakestephApril 5, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    I'm glad you liked it. I want to read this one so bad!

  3. Oh! Paper PagesApril 7, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Great review! It sounds like a really unique story. Thanks for posting about it. I will check it out.

  4. andrea bApril 8, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Thanks for the review! I saw this at a bookstore and almost bought it... but I wasn't convinced by some reason. I don't know if I just think that breakups are depressing or if I was just not up to reading it at the moment, but I'm glad that I've read your review because I think I'll change my mind.
    I liked that you mentioned that you end up invested in their relationship in the end, even if you get into the story knowing what will happen eventually...


  5. Raimy from Readaraptor HatchlingApril 11, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    I need this book, I'm really hoping its pub'ed in the UK but if not I'll just have to get it shipped over! Awesome review! :)


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