Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mini book review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up is a YA novel by Daniel Handler (a/k/a Lemony Snicket), with artworks by Maira Kalman.  Narrated by Min, it is the story of her romance and break-up with Ed.  Min is a smart original-thinker, Jewish, an old film buff, a pretty girl who doesn't know she's pretty and who has loyal friends.  When she meets Ed at her BFF Al's "Bittersweet 16" party, she is taken aback and intrigued when he asks if he can call her.  Ed is not her type; Min is not his type.  He's a basketball jock, tall, cute and popular, good at math and serial dater with a sick mom.  But he asks if he can call her and then does, and they go out on unusual (for Ed) dates to old movies and to early-morning thrift shops, and against all odds they date.  For a couple of months which, if I can remember high school at all, is practically forever.  Min changes for Ed and Ed changes for her and both sets of their friends are uncomfortable with it ... until they break up, and Min collects everything she saved from her time with Ed and returns it to him, and explains why they broke up.

I really liked this book, despite it bringing back some long-repressed feelings of high school era angst.  It is entertaining and funny and heart-breaking and Handler does a stellar job of tapping into the thoughts of a teenage girl in love: the obsessing about everything the boy says, the obsessive collecting of trash and tidbits and imbuing them with Meaning because surely it meant something that he gave her a matchbook.  Speaking as a former teenaged girl, I think Handler nailed it and it is excruciating and wonderful all at the same time.

P.S.  SPOILER Ed's a jerk.

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