Book Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

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“Ed, the thing with your heart’s desire is that your heart doesn’t even know what it desires until it turns up. Like a tie at a tag sale, some perfect thing in a crate of nothing, you were just there, uninvited, and now suddenly the party was over and you were all I wanted, the best gift.”

Why We Broke Up is told from the perspective of Min Green as she returns a box of memories to her ex-boyfriend Ed Slaterton. Its told in the second perspective as the entire book is meant to be a letter that Min has written to Ed to go along with the box.

This book was a recent birthday gift from my best friend because…well, let’s just say it fits my circumstances. I’m not a 16 year old ‘arty’ girl who really loves movies but I identified with Min really well. Perhaps a little too well as there were parts of this that was difficult to read. But I really liked it nonetheless. I think this book did a really good job of deconstructing a relationship and expressing the pain of a break up. Of course, it is completely one sided and we never get Ed’s perspective on things but that’s probably for the best. It takes two to be in a relationship and two to break up a relationship but structure of this being completely Min’s POV after the break up just works really well for the story. It’s pretty obvious from the start that this isn’t a mutual or amicable break up and Min is really expressing all of her pain, anger, and general heartbrokenness by recounting their relationship from the very start. So the ending wasn’t a big shock nor was it supposed to be. It’s funny how in hindsight the clues are there all along.

I kind of found the heavy references to made up movies and the long summaries of their plot lines a little tiresome. And there were passages that were long run-on sentences. Sometimes it worked really well and other times I just kind of got lost. I can understand it though. This is a letter that Min is writing to her ex so there are times where she just gets really emotional and her thought process goes on and on. Who hasn’t written (a hopefully unsent) letter to an ex like this? Or even just a journal entry. I really liked the artwork that went with it and how we could see each item in the box.

I think this is a good book to read if you’re broken hearted, though a bit painful. Handler had a way of going into my brain and writing down some things that is difficult for me to express. But I think it’s also good to read if you’re far away from a break up and just want to reminisce on the good and bad experiences of a first love.

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