Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Cross posted from Incandescent.

This book is exactly what it says it is: the story of why Min--short for Minerva--and Ed broke up. Told in a letter written from Min to Ed as she returns a box of keepsakes from their relationship, you hear about their first meeting when Ed shows up uninvited to Min's best friend's sixteenth birthday party and everything that follows. Min and Ed struggle to fit each other into their lives, but Min doesn't belong in Ed's athletic, basketball groupie, beer drinking clique and Ed doesn't really mesh with Min's classic movie loving "artsy" friends. But the more people try to tell them this relationship will never work, the more determined they become to see it through. You know--and since she's writing this after the fact, so does Min--that the relationship is doomed before Ed shows up in the first chapter, but the little vignettes and the moments captures by the trinkets and tokens Min has collected draw you along as you find out why.

Not necessarily in plot, but in style this book is a daring departure from the norm in young adult fiction. Why We Broke Up mixes first and second person with the narrative written to "you" (Ed) and since Min's letter is written in a single sitting on a single day, it ends up being almost stream of consciousness as she pours out every moment and every thought and every secret. I loved the originality and the authenticity of Min's voice, but found myself lost sometimes in descriptions that would carry on for so long I forgot what she was describing. Working to concentrate on following her train of thought pulled me out of an otherwise captivating book. I did, however, love the addition of the artwork by Maria Kalman, renderings of the items Min is returning to Ed. Seeing these items described by Min added something unique to this story. 

Overall, I believe Handler and Kalman have created something beautiful here. There's a poetry to Min's meandering narrative and this is one of those books that proves the journey is more important than the destination. Knowing where we're headed doesn't take anything away from this novel.

Sera's Rating: 8/10

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