Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler; illustrated by Maira Kalman
Why We Broke Up is a ‘graphic novel’ of sorts. That is, it’s a novel and it has lots of graphics. But it’s not in a comic book style.
Minerva—Min—is writing her ex-boyfriend, Ed, a letter about why they broke up. She plans to include this letter in a box of items associated with memories of their time together—keys, tickets, photos, postcards, a coat—you name it. Each item is drawn on a full color page of the book. And then there is the story behind the item. And each item has significance in that it is emblematic of why the break up took place.
Min and Ed weren’t like every couple. They didn’t seem to belong together. Ed is the co-captain of the basketball team, is very popular, likes social events at school, parties a lot, has had a lot of girlfriends and a lot more experience than Min. Min, on the other hand, is considered ‘arty.’ She’s ‘different.’ She wants to be a film director and sees events in her life as they relate to good movies. She takes Ed to see classic films. She plans an eighty-ninth birthday party for a golden-age film star. Actually, Min is very creative, has funny and good friends, and is often coming up with interesting things to do that no one else would think up
So what do Ed and Min have in common? Just each other. They are love-struck and immediately tell one another so. They have lots of plan for several months in advance. So they can’t see what all their friends can. They can’t see what Min’s mom and Ed’s sister see. That this relationship is doomed.
I liked Why We Broke Up because of the realistic portrayal of how a relationship in which two people have the worst sort of hots for each other will play out. This is done with empathy for the characters, especially Min. No reader will gloat over her broken heart. You will only remember that you were there once, too.
For students who were fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events when young, you may recognize the author, Daniel Handler. He is Lemony Snickett. I’m noting that this novel is for mature readers because of a single scene. If you’re a conservative reader and wonder whether a single scene will make you decide against reading it, go ahead and flip through the pictures in the novel. Two of them will be clues, and you will be able to make a valid decision. (I don’t want to give away the scene in this review—it’s an important, meaningful part of the book.)