Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
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.
I really wanted to like this book. The story is bittersweet, the narrator's voice is strong and clear, and it's paired with gorgeous artwork. All major points in its favor - and yet I can't get too excited about Why We Broke Up.
My friend tells me I just "don't get it" because I've never been through a breakup (or a relationship, for that matter). But it isn't the love story that bugs me about this book; the romance is pretty well developed and, from what I've heard, fairly true to life. Why We Broke Up is very nostalgic, and it's kind of neat to read about a love story in hindsight. Less with the rush of giddy emotions and more of the why-didn't-I-see-that. I very much liked that aspect of the book.
The things about Why We Broke Up that annoyed me were actually pretty trivial, but they added up fast. One, although Min's side of the love story is well developed, Ed's is a little bit lacking. I might be willing to tack that one up to the first-person narration if it weren't for, two, the only reason Ed can come up with for loving Min is that she's "different." The two of them are obviously from opposite social circles, but by God, what a weak adjective. What a crappy declaration of love! Okay, yes, a lot of the other declarations of love were really cute and sweet, but the only reason for Ed's devotion is that Min's "different."
Three, there are a lot of run-on sentences and giant blocks of unbroken text. A few runaway sentences is cool, maybe even stylistic, but when they pile up and create two full pages of text with no paragraphs, it's too much. A lot of the run-ons were just listing things, like what's happening in a basketball game, and weren't really necessary. By the end of Min's story, the entire book had started feeling like one of those blocks of text - like it had gone on forever and wasn't going to stop. The intense amount of detail was interesting to begin with, but by the last hundred pages it was just tedious. So although there were a lot of things I liked about Why We Broke Up, I was actually a little relieved to finish it.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.