Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

why we broke up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Released December 27, 2011.

Min and Ed have broken up, that’s why she thunks down a box full of things on his doorstep.  Inside the box are the small mementos of a relationship and the answers to what is behind their break up.  The box also contains a long letter to Ed that Min has written, explaining fully both the growth of their relationship and her feelings for him, but even more so the reasons that they can never be together.  The box holds memories and mementos: a toy truck, a movie ticket, a protractor, a note, and rose petals.  Each item is tied to a part of the story, a moment in their time together, times when there were warnings of how it would end but Min ignored all of them until that last one.  The one that brings us back to this box and that doorstep.

Handler’s writing here is striking.  He moves from a more normal syntax and structure into rushes of stream of conscious writing that is breathless and dazzling and bitter.  These are the moments where the pain of the breakup is right there, a heartbeat away.  It is a book filled with surprising moments, aching with importance and equally part of normal life. 

This is a relationship laid bare and honest, searingly truthful at times.  At the same time, distrust and foreboding is always right there since the reader knows from the first page that the relationship is doomed.  It is this rich mix of the delight of new love and the awareness that it ended badly that makes the book compulsively readable. 

Dazzling and honest, this book will speak to any teen who has been dumped, any teen in a relationship, and any teen looking for one.  Appropriate for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Check out the Why We Broke Up Project website too.