Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up
Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman (illustrator)
December 27, 2011 (hardcover)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
354 pages

2012 Printz Award Winner (an ALA teen literary award)

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 loved the freshness of this book...the drawings, the point of view, the backwards way in which the story was told. Even the weight of the book was unique, printed on heavy semi-gloss paper like a coffee table book would be. I felt like I was holding something important in my hands as I read it. And I'm always a sucker for a good break-up. You could really feel the bitterness behind the telling of the story of each item from their relationship.

  And that, Ed, is why we broke up.

What I didn't like was that I found it hard to believe Min's voice was that of a teenager. And if she were a real teenager, I'd probably find her precociousness extremely annoying and more pretentious than cute. You know, the arty-hipster type who hangs out in coffee houses and only likes indie music before everyone else does and would never admit to enjoying something mainstream. But, even if she's a bit annoying, her pain is palpable and it's hard not to relate to that feeling of being a teenager in love going through a break-up. Maybe this was intentional, but Ed was almost a non-character. Even though he played such a big role in the book, I never really felt connected to him. You feel more connected to Min's best friend, Al, the person driving her to drop off the box of mementos, but maybe there is a reason for that, too. Overall, a clever and fresh take on a topic that has been done and overdone a million times. I look forward to what Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) has in store for his next YA/adult book.

Why We Broke Up: 3.75/5   Cover (and art): 4/5

Note: I received a free copy of this book at the 2011 BEA. 

ENTER TO WIN A BRAND-NEW ARC COPY OF THIS BOOK! Giveaway will run May 1-7th Click Here To Go To Entry Form!


  1. Replies
    1. You should enter the giveaway if you haven't already!

  2. I keep coming by it at my library and I'm never sure if I want to read it. I'll be sure to get it next time I go. :

  3. Sounds really sad and funny at the same time. :D Good thing it's on my TBR list. :D

  4. Thanks for your review :)

    I've seen this book around the blogosphere and it's on my TBR list.

    You had mentioned in your review that Min's voice did not seem like that of a teenager. Several of my favorite authors have branched out into the YA genre(Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coben...) successfully. This success is b/c they manage to depict and write in the voice of an authentic teenager. The motivations, feelings, impulses are right on.

    An adult writing younger doesn't always work. And when it doesn't, it's painfully obvious. I think this is the case here.

    I also don't care for precocious youngsters such as those in many TV shows/movies. Henry from Once Upon A Time is an example. And I know exactly what you mean by the "arty-hipster" type.