Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (audio)

Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman

This is the story of an “arty” girl (but she’s not really arty, she just likes arty films) and a popular stereotypical, dense jock boy who fall in love for two weeks or so. If you’ve read the title you know how it ends. If you’ve read any young adult romance fiction you probably know what’s in the middle too. But I’ll give you a hint anyway: lots of angsty-pantsy stuff. If you want to read something surprising and original this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for an angst filled story about teenage infatuation you might like this book a whole lot more than I did.


Minn has a box filled with things she’s collected while she was Ed’s girlfriend. She’s enclosing a letter with the box of crap. This letter explains how she acquired each item and tells the tale of their relationships from the beginning to the oh-so-bitter end. It’s a decent concept but because the story is only told from Minn’s angry and hurt point of view Ed comes across as a complete tool. It was difficult to see why she was so in love with him. He’s gorgeous, yes, but he’s also kind of boring and insensitive and very selfish. Everyone around her can see that they are very wrong for each other but Minn refuses to heed the warning signs. I felt sorry for Minn in the beginning (knowing how it ends and all) but as the story progressed I began to lose some of my sympathy. She wouldn’t listen to others and there were times when she came across as a bit of a user. She only calls her former best friends when she needs something like a shoulder to whine on or help with a lie to cover her butt. Otherwise, she deserts them to do things that bore her to tears. Why? Because Ed wants her to. I realize they’re teens but this made me sad. I just hope Minn and the young people who read this book learn a lesson here.


The interactions Minn had with Ed’s sister were some of the best scenes in this otherwise meh story. The dialogue felt real enough (well, except for Ed’s overuse of “criminy”) but it just wasn’t anything special. There wasn’t any wit or humor to make things interesting and all that teen drama was mind numbing after a while. Minn spends most of the book pining for Ed and making little sacrifices like sitting in the bleachers for him when she’d rather be doing anything else. And then there’s the will they or won’t they sex angst that made me want to scream because he so wasn’t worth it. There’s also a plot line that has Minn planning a party for an old time movie dame that felt really cutesy and precocious. Do kids actually do these kinds of things?


All I know is that about halfway in I was thinking, “Would you two just break up already!” And that’s not a good thing.


The narrator was the best part of this experience. She had a youthful voice and made this all go down pretty easy despite my displeasure for the majority of it.