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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up (edition 2011)

by Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman (Illustrator)

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7907411,626 (3.53)31
Title:Why We Broke Up
Authors:Daniel Handler
Other authors:Maira Kalman (Illustrator)
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler


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Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Wednesday, as I was waiting for a student to arrive at the public library for a session, I took a look around for some new reading material. The librarians helpfully put the new YA novels on book-stands atop the shelves, and it was there that I first spotted this beauty:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Illustrated by Maira Kalman

354 Pages

The bold red cover caught my eye, with its painting of a falling teacup (A painting, not a stock photo of a pillow-lipped teen princess!), and the title sealed the deal. When I picked it up the book was solid and heavy, the pages thick and slick to serve the delightful illustrations sprinkled throughout the text. Though I didn’t discover it until after I finished the novel last night (I already knew this book was coming home with me), the blurbs on the back are all well-known authors commenting on their own experience with heartbreak. A sampling: Neil Gaiman, M.T. Andersen, Sara Shepard. Inspired.

This book is a jam.

Min Green is writing a letter to her ex, en route to deliver a box filled with the precious garbage of their relationship. Her letter starts at the beginning, with the very first memento, and wends its way through the weird and wonderful collection to build a whole picture of the bud, blossom, and wilt of her relationship with Ed Slaterton. The couple are an unlikely high school pair: Ed is the well-known Lothario co-captain of the basketball team and Min is a coffee-swilling film-obsessed gal with limited romantic experience. Min’s anger vibrates off the initial pages, blaming herself more than anyone for embarking on the doomed voyage, but soon gives way to bittersweet melancholy. The reader has the benefit of Min’s hindsight, but she is so well-written that it’s possible to see how she could have fallen for a boy who uses “fag” as an adjective.

Their courtship is sweet and frustrating and alarming, like most high school romances, compounded by their bird-loves-a-fish social situation. Every character in this novel is painfully three-dimensional, relatable even when being awful or stupid. The illustrations add a lot to the emotion of the narrative, adding a visual reference for each chapter of Min’s final missive to Ed while functioning as a pacing device. Small trinkets fill a single page while more significant ones draw out the suspense over two or three. Is there a girl on the planet who hasn’t amassed a box of silly treasures in the the throes of new love? Min may be more of a hoarder than most, but you will absolutely feel her pain looking at the ticket stubs, sweet notes, and more esoteric items that mark the milestones of her first love as she explains why it imploded.

I don’t want to spoil anything at all, this novel is very much about the journey since the reader knows at the outset that the breakup is imminent. Handler is also known as Lemony Snicket, and the wicked wit of those books is in great supply here. The book sails along on a tide of dialogue intercut with Min’s reflections, and her hindsight-musings on how those fit into the bigger picture now that she can see it. The narrative is not glib. Min is funny and acid and a mess, and refreshingly honest with herself, even as she is suffering the pain and humiliation of the breakup. Frankly, I am amazed that this book was written by a man, because it is so dead-on. It is the female answer to Rats Saw God.

Buy it, borrow it, read it, love it. ( )
  ArmchairAuthor | Jul 3, 2014 |
Min is finally doing it. Leaving the box full of the stuff that reminds her of her now ex-boyfriend, Ed, on his front step. But first she needs to write him a letter and tell him why exactly they broke up.

From an aesthetic point of view, this book is gorgeous. I read the paperback edition, which is printed on a weighty, glossy paper, which shows off Maira Kalman's gorgeous art to perfection. Definitely a book you want to pick up as a physical copy rather than an ebook. As for the text itself, I was a bit worried when the word "whatnot" was repeated almost a dozen times in the first few pages but the narrative quickly settled down and pulled me in. Definitely a book that verges on flow of consciousness and one that grammar nerds will find terrifying for its overabundance of commas, neither of these things bothered me because it so fitted with the letter format that is the entire novel. Min's narrative of her relationship with Ed is genuine and while the twists were predictable, they were still heartbreaking. Knowing the end from the beginning of the novel adds a tinge of melancholy to every moment Min recounts but makes the novel so much more powerful. A brilliant and beautiful book. ( )
  MickyFine | Jun 19, 2014 |
5Q, 4P

A work of literary fiction with quirky characters, embarrassing moments, and whimsical pictures, this novel would be appealing to teen readers who really want to examine the emotional guts of a difficult breakup. Written as a letter to Ed, this novel has very long and flowy language that can be off-putting and confusing to less sophisticated readers. I liked the story and felt that it resonates with an aspect of being an adolescent--dating and heartbreak. Min's reflections as she wrestles with her anger and love for Ed are especially endearing and well written. The color illustrations serve to tie the story together and provide an artistic, bohemian atmosphere to the novel. Wonderfully written, but it may be a little hard to follow for readers used to more action-packed novels. ( )
  Kimba512 | Jun 6, 2014 |
After they break up, Min (an "interesting" girl unlike all the others) sends Ed (a jock who usually dates clone-like, popular girls) a box full of items from their relationship along with a letter in which Min explains why they broke up. Even though Min thought their relationship was solid at the time, she realizes that each item she collected actually pointed to some flaw that existed between them and led to their break-up. "Why We Broke Up" is a fun and engaging mix of pictures and stories. Even though the ultimate (and shocking) reason for their break-up was nothing like I'd ever experienced, I was still somehow able to relate my first heartbreak to Min's. This book was a refreshingly honest read about why teen relationships often fall apart. ( )
  TheMadHatters | Apr 17, 2014 |
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler is not a bad novel. It tells the ill-fated relationship between Min and her ubër popular basketball player boyfriend, Ed. It's a long love song gone sour and a little bittersweet as well. If I had this book 10 years ago, I might have given it 4 stars. However, I am 10 years older than the target audience and, because of that, I couldn't relate to it. It was odd to feel such a distance while reading a teen book.

I went from flipped and flopped between liking Min and hating her little petulant behind. The scenes with her mother were infuriating. A girl who acts mature, for her age, with everyone else, acts like a whiny child with her Mom. I blame that on the age gap.

Handler wrote an all right book with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman. The story is a little sad. Especially with the parallel between the ultimately failed birthday party for the aging film star and the ultimately failed relationship. I guess because I was never that girl who got and then lost the popular guy and survived it. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Filled with long, lovely riffs of language (some paragraphs of Min’s moody reflections go on for over a page), exquisite scenes of teenage life and the sad souvenirs of one high school relationship, “Why We Broke Up” is a silken, bittersweet tale of adolescent heartache.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel Handlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kalman, MairaIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Kalman, MariaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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For Charlotte--why we got together -- D.H. + M.K.
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Dear Ed, In a sec you'll hear a thunk.
... the thing with your heart's desire is that your heart doesn't even know what it desires until it turns up.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316127256, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2012: Min, precocious and equally obsessed with classic cinema and good coffee, broke up with Ed, a popular math-loving jock who secretly carries a protractor. Daniel Handler weaves this heartrending story of first love and other powerful firsts as Min reveals, item by item, what's in the box she's leaving on Ed's doorstep. As readers learn why these two unforgettable characters broke up, the significance of these simple love tokens, beautifully illustrated by Maira Kalman, charmingly unfolds. Written with an emotional depth that allows both adult and teen readers to revisit memories of heartbreak and find pieces of themselves in Min--and maybe even Ed, Why We Broke Up will leave you wondering how Handler knows exactly what it's like to be a teenage girl in love. --JoVon Sotak

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:26 -0400)

Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.

(summary from another edition)

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