What is there to love about a book so sad, and angry, and the character so bitter about how her relationship with the school’s resident popular guy turned out, well, quite a fiasco? A lot. When you put in Daniel Handler, the author of the highly acclaimed author of the well-loved children’s classic, A Series of Unfortunate Events, into the mix. That, and the prose so beautifully written, like a real teenage girl would have penned down a letter to an ex, explaining why they broke up.
Min, seventeen, is breaking up with her boyfriend of two months. In a box full of mementos of their short-lived love affair, she writes him a very long letter putting in plain words every sad things of why she called it quits with him and dumps the box onto her ex’s doorstep.
“I’m dumping the whole box back into your life, Ed, every item of you and me. I’m dumping this box on your porch, Ed, but it is you, Ed, who is getting dumped.”
Ed Slaterton, jock, captain of the varsity team, all-around mister hot guy, has never been in love (this is a funny thing to say for someone who has a lot of girls running after him and dating him) until an “arty” girl comes along. A girl so different from the typical I-give-you-flowers-and-chocolates girls he courted, like the I-couldn’t-care-less Alaska to I-‘ve-always-lived-on-the-safe-side Pudge of Looking for Alaska, or the ever optimistic Susan Caraway to Leo Borlock’s cynical ‘tude in Spinelli’s Stargirl. Ed is at the top, Min is at the bottom rung of the ladder, and this unlikely pair falls head over heels for each other.
And then Ed does something so wrong, the very reason of the split up of the star-crossed love affair, and the dramarama, that is the long letter written by Min to Ed, begins.
Reading Handler’s Why We Broke Up, I thought the style was widely divergent to that of A Series of Unfortunate Events, a thirteen book series that has ended not so long ago. Written in epistolary form, non-bookworms may get turned off a bit, what with Min jumping from one story to another and going back the next, it can get really confusing to the readers, even to Ed, whom the letter is addressed. But that ends after twenty pages maybe, because you get used to the style, vignette, and I for one, fell in love with Min’s voice and felt the same things she did as she recounted the good and the bad things that have happened in their relationship.
And like Min, readers are going to fall for Ed’s character. I did. He’s not one of those one-dimensional jocks who are out to sleep with every girl at school like most do in other young adult novels. To him, Min is the girl he is looking for, at least that is what the readers are made to believe in the first half of the book, and while he has done something so bad that ruined them, he feels sorry for what he did and tries, although not very hard, to win this girl he finds different back.
Why We Broke Up is one of those clichéd stories of young love and heartbreak that is made entirely into something run-of-the-mill-esque. An ordinary story crafted into something out of the ordinary. And not to mention Maira Kalman’s illustrations that added color to the book, making the readers look forward for more in every turn of the page.