Why We Broke Up – A Witty Novel of Teenage Love

A beautiful book with illustrations by Maira Kalman

One of my recent reads,Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler was a slightly hilarious and slightly mortifying read of a high school relationship that fell apart.

Min, short for Minerva, tells this story in one long letter, addressed to her now-ex-boyfriend, Ed. Each chapter features an image of an object (art by Maira Kalman) which Min has placed in a box to return to Ed. These objects are the random souvenirs Min has accumulated throughout the span of their relationship. Her friend Al drives her over to Ed’s house to drop the box off while she writes the letter.

Each object has a different story. There are movie stubs from their first date, a poster that Ed ripped to write his phone number on, and an egg cuber for a movie star party they were going to throw together. Through these objects, we learn the story of how Min and Ed got together and then fell apart. Min is “arty” and “different,” although she just likes films and coffee and doesn’t understand why everyone has to label her that way. Ed is the co-captain of the basketball team and a very unlikely match for Min, who has flown mostly under the radar in high school. Through fights with Al (who doesn’t approve of Ed) and befriending Ed’s ex-girlfriend Annette, we are taken through Min’s journey. Although everyone else seems to be skeptical of them working, she and Ed declare their love for each other and spend most of their time together. Min starts attending Ed’s basketball practices after school and hanging out with him at home, and Ed learns to love coffee at Min’s favorite coffee shop.

However, like all star-crossed-lovers-from-opposite-spheres stories, Ed and Min aren’t meant to last. The end features a secret about Ed that breaks Min’s heart and forces her to end the relationship. Despite the inevitable ending, I really enjoyed this book. Min was so real, so funny, and so easy to relate to. The prose was sophisticated but fit Min’s character exactly. The illustrations were also great additions to the story, allowing the reader to see the objects as Min tells stories about them and what they represent.

Does this make you think of your own high school breakups? Everyone remembers their first heartbreak. Handler and Kalman actually have a website devoted to telling breakup stories – www.whywebrokeupproject.tumblr.com. If you liked the book, it’s worth it to poke around on the website.

Fun Fact: Daniel Handler is also the elusive Lemony Snicket from the Series of Unfortunate Events series. I have to admit I didn’t know that until after reading this book!


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