Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler with art by Maira Kalman.


354 pages

First published January 1st 2011

This is the box, Ed. Inside is everything. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket from Greta in the Wild, a note from you, a box of matches, your protractor, Joan’s book, the stolen sugar, a toy truck, those ugly earrings, a comb from the motel, and the rest of it. This is it, Ed. The whole story of why we broke up.

Min and Ed are two teens from opposite ends of the high school/clique spectrum. Ed is the gorgeous and popular co-captain of the basketball team. Min (short for Minerva) is ‘arty’ and ‘different’ (as Ed puts it) – she wants to be a director and loves obscure old movies. They’re two people who shouldn’t really be dating, and neither one particularly enjoys spending time with the other one’s friends. But for whatever reason, they really like each other.

Why We Broke Up covers their entire relationship, from start to finish, through objects. I just love that idea. Each object has it’s own page (or two) and has been depicted in beautiful art, by Maira Kalman. The art is lovely and quirky, which really suits Daniel Handler (who, as you may or may not already know, also writes as Lemony Snicket).

I think that the reason I enjoyed this so much is because I adore Daniel Handler’s sense of humour and all the stuff he comes up with. For example, Min describes all these old movies, and after a while I was thinking, ‘well, these sound like awesome movies that I would like to watch’, so I went to iMDB and looked a few of them up – but they weren’t there! I’m pretty sure that he just made them up! I’m not surprised, because after reading A Series of Unfortunate Events, I know that Daniel Handler is very clever and creative. ASoUE is, of course, totally different to Why We Broke Up, seeing as that series was written for children, and this is quite mature (swearing, sex, etc). But I can’t help but compare the two, because that same humour and love of cooking and strange, different way of looking at things from ASoUE runs right through Why We Broke Up. So if, like me, you love that Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket eccentric style, then I think you’ll like this.

As you read this, knowing the whole time that Min and Ed are going to break up (it’s in the title, after all), the while thing takes on this heartbreaking and bittersweet quality. They do all this cool stuff and seem to really dig each other, and so it’s like, ‘what’s going to happen that causes them to break up?’ I sort of dreaded finding out, because Ed is so sweet sometimes (he’s also an idiot, at other times … jocks – enough said, eh?) and Min is the best – funny and eclectic and … she’s just the best. I wanted them to be happy, but I know that in reality they are heartbroken.

Speaking of reality – I think it is very realistic that this is a high school romance about a break up, because even though some people meet their soulmate/future spouse/love of their life in high school, a lot of us don’t. I guess it’s refreshing to read about a break up every now and again, amongst all the sweeping high school romances that end happily.

I really loved it. But like I said, I’ve liked everything of his that I’ve read – children’s picture books, middle grade, young adult – I only have a proper adult one yet to try, but I will definitely get onto that soon.

My rating: 4/5

Goodreads rating: 3.49/5


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