This is the story of Min Green and Ed Slaterton, two people who shouldn’t have been perfect for each other but almost were, and that is why they broke up. Told by Min in her letter to Ed explaining each of the items she collected during their relationship including a movie ticket, an empty box of matches, and a protractor.
Daniel Handler (you might also know him as Lemony Snicket) has a way of coming up with original ideas that have you slapping yourself for not thinking of them first. Of course! A sad story for children in which you constantly inform the read that it is a sad story! Of course! A story of a break up using that little box of things that people collect of their relationship! Slap. Slap. Slap.
And the idea isn’t the only great thing about this book. Lemony Snicket fans will recognize the wonderful stream of consciousness writing that I know I always loved from The Series of Unfortunate Events. But, this book has its own original voice with the narrator Min, with whom I immediately connected. Min’s words sounded and felt like they could have been my own, despite my never having broken up with someone. It’s not that me and Min are particularly alike, but there’s something about her that will make her familiar to any reader, I think.
Of course, I must comment on the brilliant layout of the book. The illustrations added to the story in a way that made me wish all YA novels were illustrated. Why should we give up pictures just because we’re now “adults”?
The story itself held no surprises in the same way that Unfortunate Events held no surprises. Min and Ed break up (this is not a spoiler…it’s in the title of the book). Even the reason for why they break up can be puzzled out pretty early on. But that’s fine because you’re not reading for the end of the story, you’re reading for the story itself. You’re reading for the characters and the emotions and the good moments even though you know that it will end so very badly. And by the time you reach the end, I don’t think you’ll feel sad. I know I didn’t. Instead, you’ll feel healed and refreshed as if you’d written your own break up letter. In my Literary Criticism class I learned about how tragedy was supposed to create catharsis, and if I had to describe this book in one word that would be the one I chose: cathartic.
For someone who is in the middle of her first love, it wasn’t easy to hear that first love does not necessarily mean last love, but I think that theme is an important one for all young people. In a society where books teach us that insta-love means forever-love and that love conquers all, Handler shows us that sometimes love fails, and that it’s okay when it does.
Books with similar aspects
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
recommended to those who can’t get past their break up, have never been through a break up, or just want to watch a break up
not recommended to the insta-forever-love fans (though maybe this book would be good for you anyway).
Don’t just take my word for it!
“I didn’t expect to be as glued to the pages of Why We Broke Up as I was. But I started and finished reading it in almost one sitting, even dragging it into the kitchen while I got my dinner ready.” Jen @ Almost Grown-Up