on January 29, 2012
Whoa. Just, whoa. Reading Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)'s latest offering, a searing YA break up story, I feel like I have been transported back in time to my high school days*. Is there nothing the man can't do? Handler is in top form here, completely inhabiting the head space of his smart, angry teenage female narrator, Min Green. There isn't even the hintiest of hints of the author who brought snark and irony to contemporary children's literature. His sharp words are well tempered by Maira Kalman's bright illustrations of all the relationship relics Min has included with her epic break-up letter.
The book, while about love, is fueled with lots of rage. Min is smart, clueless, and completely heartbroken. Her narrative is breathless and feels like a cross between a diary rant and literary stream-of-conscious writing. The dialogue, as recalled by Min, is awkward and uncomfortable and is therefore spot on. Handler's teenagers do not talk like the kids on Dawson's Creek, or even the kids in a John Green novel, who are authentic, but loquacious. These kids say the wrong thing, stumble over their words, and are spot-on depictions of teenage awkwardness at it's best (or worst?). The juxtaposition of such literary narration and banal dialogue was fascinating.
I loved Min's friends, who throw theme parties such as a 'Bitter Sixteen' party in which all the food is so bitter it is basically inedible. I loved Min's mild hero-worship of Ed's older film-student sister, with whom she huddles in the stands at Ed's basketball games and learns to cook with in their warm, cosy kitchen. But the section that sticks with me the most is when Min takes issue with the fact that her ex-bf and his friends thing of her as different or special, and then lists all the insecurities and fears that she feels make her, in fact, embarrassingly average. This rant made me cringe, ache, and left me feeling raw.
My feeling is that people will have strong reactions to this book: you will love it or you will hate it, but it will definitely get under your skin and force you to feel something strong one way or the other. It has already received 5 starred reviews, but you can expect even more big things from Why We Broke Up: it deserves it.
This review is cross-posted at [...]
on February 11, 2016
Heartbreaker or heartacher -- it doesn't matter -- no one can deny those guilty feelings of why did I let this relationship go on for so long
After Min dumps a huge box of momentos at her ex-boyfriend's house, she narrates the tale of how they broke up. She goes item by item (we get to see the illustrations) reminding the reader that saying goodbye takes time because some memories take longer to fade.
I often praise authors that can write great dialogue, but it's Handler's narration that takes the cake. He portrays the feeling of loss and culpability that we've all felt as human beings in love because let's face it -- love is blind. And a doomed relationship can sometimes makes us feel unlovable.
''I'm not a romantic, I'm a half-wit. Only stupid people would think I'm smart. My clothes are a joke, my jokes are desperate and complicated and nobody else laughs.''
So, stop burning your exe's momentos (I promise never to burn a jacket again), fill a box and dump it at their house. Better yet, throw it through their glass window.
on August 16, 2014
oh my gosh i kinda feel like i just went through a break up. the writing was amazing. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler is such an amazing book. ALL OF THE FEELS. The illustrations compliment the story perfectly and make it easier to visualize the events in the story. At first I shipped Min and Ed but as the story went on I realized that they didn't really make the greatest couple. I really liked Min, she was very real and straight up in her letters to Ed. I did like Ed through 98% percent of the book and then at the end I really didn't like him because of a certain something.
Near the end, when we found out the big reason why they broke up I was like
WHAT THE HELL
OH MY GOD
But seriously, this book is definitely one of my new favourite contemporaries. Daniel Handler did an amazing job showing the ups and downs of a relationship and first loves. I would recommend it to everyone, especially if you are looking for a unique contemporary that doesn't fluff up high school relationships.
Shoutout to Daniel Handler for creating such a beautiful, heartbreaking story and PUTTING MY HEART THROUGH HELL.
Also s/o to Maira Kalman for the kick ass illustrations, YOU DA REAL MVP
on January 31, 2012
To be completely honest, I was so excited to read this book and really wanted to love it. If you weren't aware Daniel Handler is a very famous author who wrote 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' under the pen name, Lemony Snicket. This series happened to be one of my favourites as a child, so I couldn't wait to read a novel with new ideas and characters from a beloved writer. It's very rare for me to not finish a book. Often times I will actually force myself to read the entire thing even if it is awful but I just couldn't with this book. I unfortunately put it down half way through because I could not handle reading any further.