Retro Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

I keep trying but I'm not a huge fan of young adult fiction. Here's why . . .


Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler Narrated by Khristine Hvam
Young Adult Fiction
Unabridged Audiobook: 6 hours and 33 minutes
AmazonGoodreads
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

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.

My Thoughts
 

I don't even like YA but I picked this because my library had a copy. That's truly all it takes and I know this review is entirely my own damn fault. Why We Broke Up is the story of an “arty” girl (but she’s not really arty, she just likes arty films) and a popular stereotypical, dense, jock-type boy who fall in love for two weeks or so. If you’ve read the title you know how it ends. Whoops! If you’ve read any young adult romance fiction you probably know what’s in the middle too. But I’ll give you a hint anyway: lots of angsty-pantsy stuff. If you want to read something surprising and original this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for an angst filled story about teenage infatuation you might like this book a whole lot more than I did.

Minn has a box filled with things she’s collected while she was Ed’s girlfriend. She’s enclosing a letter with the box of crap. This letter explains how she acquired each item and tells the tale of their relationships from the beginning to the oh-so-bitter end. It’s a decent concept but because the story is only told from Minn’s angry and hurt point of view and not surprisingly, Ed comes across as a complete tool. It was difficult to see why she was so in love with him. He’s gorgeous, yes, but he’s also kind of boring and insensitive and very selfish. Everyone around her can see that they are very wrong for each other but Minn refuses to heed the warning signs. I felt sorry for Minn in the beginning (knowing how it ends and all) but as the story progressed I began to lose some of my sympathy. She wouldn’t listen to others and there were times when she came across as a bit of a user. She only calls her former best friends when she needs something like a shoulder to whine on or help with a lie to cover her butt. Otherwise, she deserts them to do things that bore her to tears. Why? Because Ed wants her to. I realize they’re teens but this made me sad. I just hope Minn and the young people who read this book learn a lesson here.

The interactions Minn had with Ed’s sister were some of the best scenes in this otherwise meh story. The dialogue felt real enough (well, except for Ed’s overuse of “criminy”, has any teen EVER seriously said criminy?) but it wasn’t anything special. There wasn’t any wit or humor to make things interesting and all that teen drama was mind numbing after a while. Minn spends most of the book pining for Ed and making little sacrifices like sitting in the bleachers for him when she’d rather be doing anything else. And then there’s the will they or won’t they sex angst that made me want to scream because he so wasn’t worth it. There’s also a plot line that has Minn planning a party for an old time movie dame that felt really cutesy and precocious. Do kids actually do these kinds of things?

All I know is that about halfway in I was thinking, “Would you two just break up already!” And that’s not a good thing.

The narrator was the best part of this experience. She had a youthful voice and made this all go down pretty easy despite my displeasure for the majority of it. If you're still dying to read this, go for the audio.

Daniel Handler is most famous for his books published under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket.

https://www.goodreads.com/series/42069-a-series-of-unfortunate-events

A Bit About the Author

Daniel HandlerDaniel Handler is the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs and, most recently, the Michael J. Printz Honor-winning Why We Broke Up, a collaboration with noted illustrator Maira Kalman. He also worked with Kalman on the book Girls Standing on Lawns and Hurry Up and Wait (May 2015). Under the name Lemony Snicket he has written the best-selling books series All The Wrong Questions as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold more than 60 million copies and was the basis of a feature film. Snicket is also the creator of several picture books, including the Charlotte Zolotow Award-winning The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen. His newest picture book is 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy illustrated by Lisa Brown.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Handler attended Wesleyan University and returned to his hometown after graduating. He co-founded the magazine American Chickens! with illustrator Lisa Brown (with whom he soon became smitten), and they moved to New York City, where Handler eventually sold his first novel after working as a book and film critic for several newspapers. He continued to write, and he and his wife returned to San Francisco, where they now live with their son.

Read May 2014

Comments

  1. YA can be a wonderful genre, filled with nuanced stories about growing up. BUT and there is one in every genre, there can be books like this that drive me nuts. If there's going to be a romance, please let there be a romance people can see happening.

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    Replies
    1. Very true Verushka. I seem to be an expert at picking YA with annoying characters, love triangles or boring storylines.

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  2. I don't read this genre often. It is not one I am fond of, but a few do come on my radar that has proven to be fine.

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    Replies
    1. There are some goodies. I have to be choosier with my picks.

      Delete
  3. I'll be skipping this one. I've heard quite a few people saying they liked this one, but it sounds like no fun to me! I had no idea that it was written by the same author who did Lemony Snicket. Maybe he should stick to that.

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    Replies
    1. There are many who adore it but I'm not of them :(

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  4. Honestly, I assumed they would get together anyway. lol Most YA has these tragic titles but the story doesn't really follow through.

    I can see how this one would frustrate you. Maybe it would help teens going through it though. Hopefully. lol

    For What It's Worth

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    Replies
    1. I have little patience and am too old for this kind of nonsense. My daughter might love it though. She loves all these YA that drive me crazy.

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  5. Great review.

    I am hit and miss with YA as well.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I need to investigate my picks before diving in.

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  6. Yeah ... I don't read much YA in this genre anymore except for a couple authors I'm familiar with. The characters tend to annoy me anymore.

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    Replies
    1. I have two young adults in the house. I guess that's enough for me!

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  7. Sorry this one didn't work for you. I didn't know who Lemony Snicket was so I learned something :)

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    Replies
    1. I only know because one of my kids brought home the books years ago.

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  8. At least the narrator was good! I try to refrain from YA, too, but it happens to the best of us.

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