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Why We Broke Up
By Daniel Handler with Art by Moira Kalman
ISBN: 9780316127257
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
Reeling from a sudden break-up from her boyfriend Ed, Min writes a letter as a means of understanding why the relationship was doomed from the beginning.

Plot Summary:
On the porch of the house where Ed Slaterton lives, a package has just been delivered. The package is a simple box filled with mementos of a failed relationship. Objects such as a movie ticket stub, a matchbox, a coin, and a kitchen tool lay within the box as well as a letter describing the significance of the contents. The letter, written by one Minerva Green, recounts the beginnings of their relationship and how it was doomed to fail. Told in flashbacks from Min’s point of view, Why We Broke Up describes the pain and heartache of a first love that doesn’t survive.

Kalman-Matchbox-218x300

Critical Evaluation:
Young love is a topic that will always be revisited because we have all experienced love and lost in our past, especially at a young age when we’re still discovering our own self-worth. Daniel Handler’s book about a doomed love can be engaging in that we can’t help but remember our own first relationship or that first crush and wonder why it didn’t work out like we wanted it to. We can’t help but wonder if our lives would have been different if we had left earlier in the relationship or if we had stuck it out. Life is fully of unknowns and what-ifs, more so in the teen years than in any other time because the world still seems endless with amazing possibilities. When young love ends, it seems like nothing else matters and there’s no more hope for any of us.

In regards to the relationship between Ed and Min, while at times the situations seem childish and bitter, this is often the manner in which high school relationships operate. Too many feelings all at once which crash and burn with casualties surrounding the messy situation. Min is enraptured with Ed, even though they barely share anything in common. Min is hopeful, like many girls her age, that everything will work out and that love will win all. At times, Min’s issues about the relationship seem too much in that it almost borders on obsessive, with a path towards stalker behavior. While this might be a negative quality to the book, it’s an important key in that Min is still a young girl, struggling to find her voice. She might not comprehend the bigger picture and the experience she gains through this relationship will help her see how wrong she was to have hope.

Moira Kalman’s art is a lovely set piece to the book, providing visual examples of the items in Ed’s box. The use of visuals are important in that it highlights what was important to Min, even if the items seem silly and redundant.

Overall, Handler does give a solid effort in portraying young doomed love. Young readers, specifically those in mourning of a lost love, will find comfort in Min’s cathartic words, but might find her actions over the top. Granted, the use of symbolization is an important plot device to carry the story. It’s hard to reconcile that one person would save every memento of a relationship, every a relationship that barely lasted three months.

The story has inspired a webpage called the Why We Broke Up Project, wherein readers can share their own tales of heartache from a break-up.

project

Information about the Author and Artist:
Daniel Handler is a graduate from Wesleyan University. He currently resides in San Francisco, a city where he was born and raised. Handler is the author of three adult titles as well as a musician. His alter-ego, Lemony Snicket, is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Daniel Handler does not have a personal webpage, though his alter-ego, Lemony Snicket, does.

Maira Kalman is a resident of New York City. She is a writer and an illustrator, having published thirteen children’s books. This is her second collaboration with Handler, with the previous collaboration published with Handler’s alter-ego, Lemony Snicket. Kalman’s art has been exhibited in the United States and China.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Letter Writing, Relationships and Communication

Booktalking Ideas:
What mementos do you have that remind you of another person?
Do emotions manipulate our decisions in life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Amazon has a suggested reading age of 15 and up. Kirkus Reviews suggests 14 and up.

Challenging Issues:


There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would include sexual situations, drug and alcohol use and theft.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I had picked this book up at my local library branch because I was familiar with the author’s previous work. The story is universal in that all young relationships can be turbulent . The mixture of hormones and fluxing emotions swirl are a common theme for teens. This is a great book for any teen who has suffered in love for it shows that they are not alone and it’s okay to feel heartbreak, even in a short-term relationship.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d). Why we broke up. Amazon.Com. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Broke-Daniel-Handler/dp/0316127256/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354389663&sr=8-1&keywords=why+we+broke+up

Barclay Agency. (n.d.). Daniel Handler. The Steven Barclay Agency. Retrieved from barclayagency.com

Kalman, M. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from http://www.mairakalman.com/about/

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). Why we broke up. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/daniel-handler/why-we-broke/

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