Contemporary Realistic: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
1. Bibliographic Information: Handler, Daniel. Illustrations by Maira Kalman. (2011). Why we broke up. New York City: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
2. Summary: Min Green, quirky and imaginative, and Ed Slaterton, a popular jock, just ended their short relationship, and Min is writing a letter to Ed explaining why they had to break up. The letter is placed inside a box filled with mementos from their relationship: a protractor, movie stubs, and a cookbook, just to name a few. Min, being no one's fool, has left the box and mementos upon Ed's door as a reminder of their time together and to show that he did not get the upper hand on her.
3. Critical Analysis: Why We Broke Up is by Daniel Handler, who also wrote A Series of Misfortunate Events (a best-selling series for young readers) under the name Lemony Snicket. Why We Broke Up has received favorable reviews from several places, such as: Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Horn Book.
Obviously, this book is about a breakup between two high school students. This story has been told before, but Handler tells it with a fresh voice and memorable characters. His writing makes you wonder how he knows so well what it feels like to be a young girl in love. The story is told from Min’s letter to Ed. Her narrative is witty and remarkably endearing, with a sharp edge that shows she can be very independent, "Stop saying no offense,” I said, “when you say offensive things. It’s not a free pass” (114). While both characters could be described as self-absorbed (as most teenagers are), that is what makes the novel and story seem true. Handler does such a wonderful job with the portrayal of Min and Ed that the reader can picture them exactly in one’s mind. The only downside to Min’s character is the annoyingly long ramblings she does in parts of her letter. If readers can look past this, they will enjoy Min’s voice.
The story itself is told in a long letter from Min to Ed explaining why the relationship was doomed from the beginning. The letter references items in the box that is left upon Ed’s doorstep. Maira Kalman created the artwork for Why We Broke Up. Each item referenced by Min is beautifully illustrated. Her whimsical drawings go wonderfully with Handler's prose- a true compliment to each other.
With a title like Why We Broke Up, I knew the story was ill-fated from the beginning, but it did not stop me from devouring the pages in order to discover Min and Ed's story. This contemporary realistic novel is delightful example of how an old story given be given a fresh twist.