Monday, 2 January 2012

Review: Why We Broke Up

Title: Why We Broke Up
Author: Daniel Handler
Illustrator: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 27th, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Min and Ed are breaking up. When Min is finally ready to part with all the things that remind her of Ed, she does so by dropping off a box with a letter explaining that the items in the box are why they broke up. As Min recounts their doomed relationships in this letter, we are brought back to when she first met Ed at her friend’s bitter sixteen party. Co-captain of the basketball team, everyone knows Ed but no one ever imagined that he would date someone like Min, who is obsessed with old films and described as arty. Ed tells Min that she’s unlike any girl he’s ever dated, and Ed is certainly different from anyone else Min knows. As the two fall in love, they forget their differences and feel like anything is possible. A trip to the movies can turn into the two following the film’s star. A secluded area in a park can be a magical place of their own. In the end, Min wasn’t so different from the other girls Ed has been with; she’s left only with a broken heart and a box full of memories.

I bought this book on a whim with my Christmas money on Boxing Day, since hardcover books were discounted. Why We Broke Up is by Daniel Handler, who also wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events under the name Lemony Snicket. This story, as the title indicates, is about a couple breaking up and all the events that lead up to that, beginning when they first meet. At the beginning I was concerned with the narrator’s voice. Min is supposed to be writing her heart out in a letter to her ex, so there are quite a few run on sentences. I was soon able to look past this and get caught up in the story. I was also initially worried that this book would be too angst ridden, but that didn’t end up bothering me at all. The best thing about Why We Broke Up is how it seemed to perfectly capture high school relationships. Ed and Min felt very real, especially since we were shown the good and bad of their relationship. While there are many reasons why Min and Ed broke up, we also get to see the reasons they are together. Handler wrote a teenage relationship that rings true, although I wonder if this book is better for the cynical, rather than the idealistic. While the relationship at the centre of the novel felt accurate, Min didn’t read like a teenage girl. Despite this, I still enjoyed her narration overall. While the plot is simple and focuses entirely on Min and Ed, it still managed to be engaging and interesting. The illustrations by Maira Kalman have an important role in this book, since each chapter begins with a picture of the corresponding item. Who was it exactly who decided that illustrations are mainly for children’s books? I love pictures in books, especially ones as pretty as Kalman’s. I especially like the roses on the book’s cover when jacketless. While the premise for this book might sound rather simple, it was actually a creative and enjoyable read. Why We Broke Up is not only intimate and poignant look at Min’s first major breakup; it is also a coming of age story. Even though anyone who has read the title knows how this one is going to end, I enjoyed being taken through Ed and Min’s ill fated relationship.


“There are no stars in my life."

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