Jennifer's Reviews > Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
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's review
Feb 17, 2012

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Read in November, 2011

Book Description

High schoolers Ed and Min have broken up. Min is giving Ed a box that contains all the detritus from their relationship (e.g., a bottle cap, a cookbook, a film canister, a note)—along with a letter explaining the meaning of each item and a detailed explanation of why they broke up.

Written as a letter to Ed (a very very long letter, I might add), Why We Broke Up is a collaborative effort between Daniel Handler (who did the writing) and Maira Kalman (who did the drawing).

My Thoughts

Oy vey! What do I say about this book? I was very frustrated by it—mostly because of the detailed, dramatic, ridiculous way that Min rehashes a relationship that lasted from October 5 until November 12. And yet, the very drama (verging on melodrama) and angst and relentless detail is probably what makes this book an almost eerily accurate portrait of a typical teenage relationship. In fact, the book reminded me of my own heightened feelings of pain and drama resulting from months-long high school relationships—the endings of which resulted in obsessive journal writing and multiple crying jags.

So the question to ask yourself is: Do you want to read a fairly long book about the break-up of a teenage relationship?

If you answered yes, then this book would be a good choice. Channeling the psyche of a teenage girl, Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) does a credible job of capturing the melodrama of young love. I suspect that YA readers in the throes of their own relationship dramas will be able to relate to Min and Ed’s experiences. In addition, if you have a young person in your life going through a break-up that seems ridiculously overdramatized to you, this book might be a good reminder of what that time in life is like.

If you answered no, then I would avoid this book as you will find it (like I did) a bit tiresome. To be 100% honest, I found Min annoying and a little stupid at times (despite her being an “arty smarty girl.” I got tired of what felt like a real-time accounting of every moment Min and Ed spent together. Once again, a YA book that is probably not targeted to my demographic left me cold. (Surprise!)

Originally, I wanted to read this book because of the combination of the narrative and the art. I thought it would be cool to see the contents of the box and hear why each item led to the break-up. Unfortunately, the premise didn’t really live up to my expectations. I didn’t find Maira Kalman’s art all that wonderful or inspiring. And you already know how I felt about the text. Although I’m all for experimentation in storytelling, this particular effort fell flat for me.

Recommended For

Readers who want to experience the psyche of a teenage girl in the aftermath of a break-up; fans of Maira Kalman and/or Daniel Handler
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