Book Review: Why We Broke Up

10798418Author: Daniel Handler

Art: Maira Kalman

Book Title: Why We Broke Up

Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary

Type: Stand Alone

Format: Hardcover, 354 Pages

Publishing Date: December 27, 2011

Summary: 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. [summary from Goodreads]

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My Thoughts: I know I am really late in reading this book, especially considering that it came out three years ago, but this is what happens when us bookish people have an ever growing TBR list right? Anyway, I was initially drawn to the book by the coffee cup, I’m a coffee lover, and the premise sounded interesting too so I gave it a shot. Writing a letter to an ex boyfriend and delivering all of the mementos from your relationship to them after a breakup sounds like something any of us would like to do. Kind of like a chance to let him go – it’s a cathartic thing much the same as crying it out can be. However, while we can appreciate Min’s decision to do this, most of us would never go through with it because our pride after a break up, especially after being the dumpee, is already bruised to shit, so I’d imagine we’d just wallow and obsess over our box of trinkets until the tears dry up and we can’t feel it anymore. Luckily this is fiction and we have the chance to live vicariously through the relationship of Min and Ed as she writes him the letter of why she believes they broke up.

Pros:

  • The art was really charming. I enjoyed getting to see a new picture every few pages, especially since they tied into the memories Min was recalling AND they helped to move the story along at a faster pace. That aspect alone bumped up the rating for me because it was an attempt at making the story personal for the reader.
  • The characters weren’t the best but I did like some things about them:
    • Min was intriguing. She was smart but also a typical representation of a high school girl with her first love, fully susceptible to the charms of a cute boy. I liked her innocence and inexperience with boys, it showed how young she really was and how at that age everything is larger than life. I also enjoyed that she wanted to become a film director and her passion for films was crystal clear, clearer than most of the storyline actually. Not to spoil anything but I wish she had been given the chance to bloom into a more confident person, she deserved that.
    • Al, Min’s best friend, was the guy I wanted her to be with. From the beginning he had my attention with his refusal to give his opinion on anything, his cooking skills, and how he was there for Min even when she didn’t deserve it.
    • Joan, Ed’s older sister, started off as being really awesome. Her first appearance had her dancing in the kitchen with a wooden spoon as a mic and the next time we saw her she was sharing a tin of homemade biscotti with Min at a basketball game.
  • The concept of writing a breakup letter to your ex was a great idea and pairing it with a box of trinkets from their relationship was an added bonus. The things that we keep when we’re in love to remind us of every second we are with that person are so interesting.

Cons:

  • It was a heavy book, just not in the way you’d hope for given the title. I anticipated having more of an emotional connection with Min, or any of the characters, but I just didn’t.
  • The characters weren’t fully fleshed out and kind of felt a bit bland.
    • Min had the most potential as the narrator but there was still a disconnect there. She needed more gusto for the other things besides films. Traveling through her eyes was like watching a black and white movie, which can be enjoyable, but in this case I was hoping it would turn to color like the Wizard of Oz did when Dorothy got to munchkin land. This novel tried to get to pastel a few times but mostly it just remained black and white.
    • I wanted to see more of Al. Find out what his opinions were the whole time, almost in a split narrative. Find out what him and the other friends were doing while Min was off with Ed.
    • While I liked Joan in my pros list, her behavior became really confusing toward the second half of the book and I never truly understood why she behaved like she did. It left me cold toward her.
    • Ed, the ex boyfriend who is a basketball player that has dated the entire female population of their high school and those girls are catty as hell. His loose lips calling everything “gay” and saying “no offense” when he is actually offending you were fine at first but then it got to be overkill. I also hated how he would always say that Min was different as if that explained anything about her. It always sounded like a negative thing, even though he was assuring her it wasn’t.
  • The narrative was often confusing and the ending wasn’t great. I could not believe that I spent 354 pages in a like/hate relationship with this book and then I’m just left feeling blah at the end.
  • Considering it is meant to be a breakup LETTER, it was way too long. I was reminded of this scene from Friends (which always makes me laugh so maybe that should go in the pros?)

So, there you have it. My jumbled thoughts of this book that I wanted to love but just couldn’t fully get there. The rating was mixed throughout, lowest in the beginning and higher in the second half. Did any of you read this novel? If so, what were your thoughts?

Rating: 3-flowers

Quotable Moments: “There was always a girl on you in the halls at school, like they came free with a backpack.”

 

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