Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler; illustrated by Maira Kalman
Release Date: December 27, 2011
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.
Ed Slaterton is that guy. That gorgeous, popular, womanizing, basketball-playing guy. And you hope on all you hold dear that he’s been misjudged. That he’s genuinely one of the good guys, someone you can trust with your heart. Min Green isn’t athletic, popular, or experienced. But she isn’t different (though people keep calling her that), not really. She’s like every other girl experiencing her first real love and you desperately want Ed to be worthy of that love.
I knew from the start that this book wasn’t going to have a happy ending. Hello, it’s right there in the title. Nevertheless, I allowed myself to hope that the title was misleading and Ed would get some kind of redemption at the end. Thankfully, that never happened. I think the story would fall short if it had given in to the expectation of a happily-ever-after. Let’s face it; very rarely do first-loves end with ‘til death do us part. But just because a relationship ends badly, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth experiencing, and that’s exactly how I feel about Why We Broke Up. It’s all here in this book—the good and the bad, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking—told in wonderfully poignant words and illustrations. As the story of their relationship progressed I kept wondering “how could things have gone wrong?” Min and Ed are so cute together and they share exquisitely perfect moments. But there is a bitterness to these moments, like the items in the box, because each one helps tell the story of why they broke up.
I was immediately drawn to Min. She is honest, quirky and unflinching. At times I would get lost in her film references or the way her thoughts jumped around and over top of one another, but I didn’t mind. These details added to her character and made her very real. I was amazed at how accurately Daniel Handler inhabited the psyche of a teenage girl and brought Min to life. Reading this book was like talking with a heartbroken friend. By the end of the book I wanted to reach into the pages, hug Min, and tell her she was going to be OK. But I think Min will be all right. After all, how many people could write such a frank letter to an ex and have the courage to actually deliver it? She is stronger than she realizes and that is why they broke up.
So if you are looking for a book with a happy ending, I suggest you find something else to occupy your time. But if you are looking for an honest and memorable narrator and a story that will leave a bittersweet smile on your face long after it’s over, than I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Why We Broke Up.