Saturday, May 19, 2012

REVIEW: Why We Broke Up

Handler, D. & Kalman, M.  (2011).  Why We Broke Up.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company.

354 pages.

Why We Broke Up isn't your typical book.  Instead of the usual author blurbs describing how awesome a book is, the back cover is covered (haha) with quotations from famous YA authors (like Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Sarah Zarr, MT Anderson, Carolyn Mackler, David Levithan etc.) describing the first time their hearts were broken.

What a wonderful touch to demonstrate that 1. a potential heartbroken reader is not alone and that 2. such pain is survivable.  Because that's what Why We Broke Up is:  an honest look at the problems and joys of a relationship between people from different cliques.

Appetizer:  Min has arranged to deliver a heavy box to Ed's front door.  The box contains everything from their less than two-month (Oct. 5-Nov. 12) relationship.  Everything.

As Min writes about the meaning of each object, the details of her and Ed's star-crossed relationship and why they broke up is revealed.

Including paintings of each object, Why We Broke Up is a loooong, slooooooow post-mordem of the relationship between 11th grade, movie-buff Min and her 12th grade, basketball co-captain, Ed.

From the beginning of their relationship, the two had almost nothing in common.  As their relationship develops--both emotionally and physically--this tension mounts and the novel serves as a very honest look at a doomed relationship.

The more I read Why We Broke Up, the more I was reminded of the Youtube video Dramatic Reading of a Break-Up Letter:

And not just because of the video's similar subject or the fact that the entire novel is told in the second person, with Ed being the intended audience.  Min's run-on sentences (which I occasionally stumbled over) started to remind me of the grammatical slip-ups in the above video.  Admittedly, Min's voice has much more poetry to it.  Plus, Min can spell.

I enjoyed Why We Broke Up a lot, but it didn't rock my world.  While there are still some darkly humorous touches one could expect from the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events (a bitter sixteenth birthday party, anyone?), the book wasn't as enjoyable as I would have expected.  I think it was the subject matter.  It's one thing to hear a brief retelling of all the hints of what contributed to the end of a relationship, it's quite another to read a 354-page play-by-play.

I was still very impressed by how honestly Handler managed to portray his female protagonist.  I liked Min's references to made-up old movies.  I found myself wishing some of those movies were real, because I would totally watch them.  I also don't think I'd mind living in the city where Handler set Why We Broke Up.  Min shopped at so many awesome and quirky stores.  If I lived in this town, I'd also be very poor.  Due to all of the shopping.  (The more I reflect on this, the more I start to realize that this novel has almost a quirky Gilmore Girls feel to it.)

The mystery of what happened between Ed and Min did carry me through.  I also liked seeing all of the paintings.  Plus, there was a lot of wonderful dialogue.  Yeah, the witty dialogue between Min and her friends definitely made the book worth-while.

Also, I want to frame some of the artwork from the novel and put it on my walls.

Dinner Conversation:

"Dear Ed,
In a sec you'll hear a thunk.  At your front door, the one nobody uses.  It'll rattle the hinges a bit when it lands, because it's so weighty and important, a little jangle along with the thunk, and Joan will look up from whatever she's cooking...You won't even know or hear what's being dumped at your door.  You won't even know why it even happened." (p. 1)

"I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed.  I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.  And the truth is that I goddamn loved you so much." (p. 1)

"Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb.  I'm dumping the whole box back into your life, Ed, every item of you and me." (p. 3)

"'He asked you out.  Ed Slaterton.'
"He's not going to call," I said.  "It was just a party."
"Don't put yourself down," Jordan said.  "You have all the qualities Ed Slaterton looks for in his millions of girlfriends, come to think of it.  You have two legs."
"And you're a carbon-based life-form," Lauren said.
"Stop," I said.  "He's not--he's just a guy."  (p. 21)

"I gave you an adventure, Ed, right in front of you but you never saw it until I showed you, and that's why we broke up." (p. 31)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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