Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler; illustrated by Maira Kalman
PROS:sister from another mother min, first love/heartbreak done well, gorgeous artwork, kitschy love trinkets
CONS:off-the-charts cringing at Ed (but it's fun)
Breakups get all the nostalgia—and sentimental laboring over scene and mood—of really good classic movies.
In Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), breakups get all the nostalgia—and sentimental laboring over scene and mood—of really good classic movies.
Of course movies just happen to be main character Min’s obsession. So her ex-boyfriend Ed should really not be surprised to get a rambling, cinematic breakdown of every scene of their relationship, alongside a box full of trinkets and souvenirs—the last physical remnants of their time together. He may think he knows why they broke up, but when Min’s through with him, he will have relived every scene, as though he were in a smoky arthouse theater, watching the pair come together and then unravel onscreen.
5 Reasons I Loved Reliving Min & Ed’s Breakup
1. Min’s Lens on Life
You and Min could see the same movie together, and she’d come out talking about scenes you didn’t remember seeing, expounding subplots and hidden meanings and innuendo only she, and perhaps the director of the movie, could spot and understand. Her worldview and voice are entirely unique, and where I might not have cared about their relationship if Ed, or even a friend of theirs, recounted it, I found it fascinating through Min’s eyes.
She’s the ultimate observer, sort of an emotional naturalist in her own life. Because she views life like a movie, we relive hers like we’re in one. And it is greatly entertaining.
2. Min’s Friends
Min has the kind of oddball friends that are so unapologetically fantastic and interesting, you just know they’re the types that will grow up to do interesting, avant-garde things in their lives. But they’re also kind of weighed down by the provincial construct of High School Monotony. Min feels guilty saddling them with a cliched jock type who clearly does not share their eclectic tastes and attitudes, and she’s at times quite embarrassed by his behavior (rightly so). Min ends up cutting her friends out of her life while she’s dating Ed, to an uncomfortable and cruel degree (especially in the case of her best friend Al). There were times when I wished Min would ditch playing beacher jockey at Ed’s basketball practice and go out with Al or Lauren, (and take me with them).
And this highlights how tenuous their relationship really is, that she can’t let her boyfriend be himself with her friends, or vice versa. If you’re ashamed of one or the other, or both, that’s a BIG problem.
3. Adorable Coupledom
No matter what your sixth sense is telling you about Ed or Min or their projected lifespan as a couple, you can’t deny there is some genuine sweetness and intimacy to relish. They have a VERY good case of the first-love-feel-goods and who doesn’t love to indulge in that? Nearly the only thing Min and Ed have in common is their intensity about each other. None of their friends get it. So you also have an element of forbidden, “the world doesn’t understand us, let’s cling to each other!” solidarity, which makes their romance seem all the sweeter (and doomed).
4. The Kitschy Detritus of Love
Sentimental, maybe. But Min’s box of Ed+Min souvenirs is fun to rifle through as she recounts their love. She tosses the physical reminders of that love to the same eventual destination as the words that describe it – unceremoniously onto Ed’s porch. These mementos are sweetly rendered by artist Maira Kalman, and perfectly express that bizarre inexplicable mixture of breakup feelings: “But I LOVED you! How did it end up like this?” / “Ugh, get LOST, and take all this crap with you.”
5. Tabloid Curiosity
Whether you delve to the depths of regular US Weekly binges, or just cruise the odd reality show, there’s no shame in a little tabloid curiosity. You know Ed and Min are headed for Splitsville—it’s plastered all over the book; it’s even a refrain found at the end of even sweet recountings of their good times. “And that’s why we broke up, Ed.” So, you know drama is imminent. Given how hot Min’s emotions run, how vividly she sees the world, this is not going to be a gradual fizzling out of a relationship. It’s going to be Krakatoa.
Like any good reality show, this book provides plenty of those frustrating/exhilarating moments when, seeing the iceberg in the water, you just want to throw popcorn at the screen and scream at the main characters to “WATCH OUT.” But love, like ship navigation, can have pretty epic blind spots.
In this video trailer for the book, Daniel takes a lighter approach to breakups than Min’s epic farewell note. He consults Grand Central’s commuters for their tales of breakup woes, and offers them some sassy advice. At one point he even steps in to help a woman whip her current boyfriend, who is late meeting her, into shape. Via cell phone.