Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

High School relationships last forever. Well, at least it seems as if they will in the moment, but when the inevitable break up comes, things begin to take on a new clarity. In Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up, Min packs up a box full of relationship mementos, writes a long letter, and tells Ed exactly why they broke up—item by item. Going through the box, Min tells the story of a relationship that seems to blossom out of the blue and why it came to its heartbreaking demise.

Min, a “different,” don’t call her artsy, movie buff falls in love with the basketball superstar of her high school, Ed, co-captain of the team, not captain. The letter tells of their first meeting at the birthday party of Min’s best friend, Al, their first date seeing an old movie and chasing a woman who may of possibly been the star of that movie, as well as the first time they have sex, and even the last day they spent as a couple. As the items get piled into the box, so too do the reasons why they fell in love and why they eventually broke up. Each item has a story behind it and you’ll find yourself wondering how it fits into the larger picture of why they broke up. Stolen sugar, a box of matches, and a toy truck don’t necessarily have break-up written all over them.

Why We Broke Up, a 2012 ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, is a fantastic ode to high school relationships and how quickly they can become intense and then how quickly they can turn sour. The somewhat stream-of-consciousness style in certain parts of the novel allow for a unique vulnerability of Min’s character and really lets the reader feel the heartbreak underlying this cathartic release. While not being too graphic, there is some talk about sex that would not be appropriate for younger readers; my recommended age group for this novel is somewhere around 11th-12th grade. Overall, it was a great read with relatable and likable characters. I found myself rooting for them to make it through despite knowing that this is why they broke up.


Safa said...


I am curious now as to why they broke up!!! I believe that since sex is mentioned 12th grade is appropriate. Often time students are reading literature that is not age appropriate and I feel that it's important to make sure all material is suitable for each child.


amberK said...

I too am curious as to why they broke up! Your review alludes to some things that actually seem like they would help to create a good relationship, not break one up. You described the characters briefly, but it tells so much about who they are; it makes me wonder why they started dating as well. I agree that this book seems like it is for a more mature audience, not just because of the sex, but also the tone and emotions seem to better fit an older audience.

runner4life23 said...

I will admit it, I love romantic stories and although this novel talks about breaking up, it also seems like a very nice and sincere love story. Like the comments above, I am very intrigued on why these two broke up if they seemed very perfect for each other. Although the characters were in high school, I'm glad you made the age level recommendation of 11th to 12th graders because I can see how the sex references in younger classes could be. This really sounds like a great read!

FFoster said...

Your review gives me just enough to pique my interest. I am not just wondering why the characters in the story broke up, but how the author Daniel Handler depicts this unique concept. As for the sex references, since you said they were not graphic, I think that maybe some leniency could be given towards the recommended age group. In today's society, more and more young people are becoming sexually active at a younger age. I think that maybe this book could be presented to 10th graders, for the simple fact that in high school, relationships start to become deeper, longer, and more mature, even before ACTs/SATs are taken. The point of the book seems like it is to delve into the inner workings of adolescent love, that either evolves together or grows apart. Let's have more faith in the concept.