Why We Broke Up

(2011)
Why We Broke Up Book Cover

 

The short version: The story of a break up from the very beginning of the relationship, starring authentic characters and presented in a unique format--each chapter starts with an object from a box of mementos Min collected and is giving to her ex-boyfriend, Ed. For more details, read on.

Minerva Green is being driven to the home of her ex-boyfriend Ed by her best friend Al to deliver a box of mementos she collected over the course of their short relationship. Each chapter of Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up begins with a painting of an object from the box and is followed by Min's written explanation to Ed of what the object and its significance is. Frequently, these objects are launching points for the narrative of their relationship. The movie ticket leads into the story of their first date and the poster Ed steals from the theater continues the story of that day. Other items are one-offs, with a single story attached to them. It's a fun and unique way to tell this story, and Handler writes very convincingly as a young woman in high school.

Despite the structure of the book around these objects, the story flows easily. Ed and Min meet at a party that Ed wasn't invited to, have an instant attraction, and exchange numbers. They are from different social circles, Ed being a captain on the basketball team and Min spending most of her time with a small group of film aficionados. She wants to be a film director. He wants to win the state championship. There are times while reading the story that Min feels like a friend who you realize cannot see that this is not a long-term relationship, which is a big credit to Handler's ability to make her, Ed, the other characters, and the details of their relationship so authentic and Min's love for Ed so genuine.

One element of Handler's writing I enjoyed involved Min withholding the information about an object until late into her writing about it. There's a suspense of curiosity that builds around the object--How does that play a significant role in her story?--and it's a fun change to the formula of a chapter.

I'm struggling to think what readers I'd recommend this to. It would appeal to both teen and adult readers who like realistic fiction, obviously, but they would also have to enjoy a story that breaks the mold.

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