Friday, 14 September 2012

Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler

This book has been on my to-read list for a long time. However, with it not being published in the UK, it was doubtful and practically impossible to get a copy to read.
However, one morning I was tidying the shelves in the Teen section at work (aka look and see what new books have come in that I want) and I found about 8 copies of this book that had come in during the week. I was going to buy this but the next day, I was visiting the library, picking up a book I reserved and glanced at the 'New Teen Reads' section. Seeing this, I instantly picked it up.

The idea behind this is what interested me the most to want to read it. I think every girl (and guy) can say coming out of a relationship that there are going to be little things around your house/bedroom that mark a time you were with that person. In my room alone, I counted about 15 things from two ex-boyfriends. It's weird that even after you get over the person emotionally, they are still impacting your life in a small and subtle way. And I commend Min in this book for ridding Ed from her life, both mentally and physically.

Synopsis: Min Green is breaking up with Ed Slaterton. So Min is writing a letter and handing over a box. The box contains many things - a pair of ugly earrings, movie tickets, a recipe book, a box of matches, a protractor, a note. But every single item has significance for the couple. Every item holds a memory, a feeling, an emotion that Min felt throughout their short yet magical relationship. The box, like Min herself, will be dumped on Ed's doorstep with a letter detailing exactly why they broke up.

Review: I think the thing that interests most people about this book is the idea. It's an idea anyone would have experienced and I can certainly emphasise with Min and say I would have loved to have done this to my ex's. I was additionally attracted to this novel because of the striving cover and the fact this was a contemporary.

There have been a mixture of reviews for this one, and I have to admit, I am a little on the fence about this book. I did enjoy reading this book because of it's originality. But when I finished it, and during reading, even though I wanted to love this so much, I just didn't...

There are a number of reasons for that. One is the beginning. Sure, I was interested in what was happening but it took me a while to be sucked in. The beginning starts with Min and Ed meeting at a party that Ed wasn't invited to. I found it slow and in parts of the narrative, especially near the end, it was slow and jumpy. I can't really see what made their relationship turn negative. One moment they are fine, the next not so much. There was no definite moment to signify the beginning of the end, as such.

So the beginning wasn't great. I think started to get into it..mostly. The main problem for me was Min's narrative, mostly the writing. The novel is written in a particular style and this style left me confused about what was happening and reading sentences over and over trying to make sense of them. Min is angry, and because of this, to make it sound angry I think, the sentences are long. And I mean long, making it feel like Min is ranting at you. On one page, there was only two sentences on the pages - that's how long they were. This is fine, but I found it made it confusing and jumpy. Essentially, it didn't flow well some times.
The writing is also very subtle in what is happening, especially in personal moments between the pair. I didn't mind this and I don't think many people would. It just can perhaps be a little unclear about exactly WHAT is happening.

I have to admit, I liked Min - however, I think I was positioned to. I also felt for her. She seems like someone who wouldn't make friends easily or go out with guys often because of her personal originality but then, Ed comes along, whisks her off her feet and then breaks her heart, all within about a month. She is angry. I think anyone can tell. And she has reason to be, as you discover throughout. I also have to admit that I liked Ed, despite this sign in my mind shouting 'Don't trust him!'. I'm sure Min also experienced that.
Ed is an interesting character. The main reason they break up is entirely his fault and so soul destroying for anyone that has also had a relationship end for that reason. Yet he says he loves her continuously, in fact, it's always him starting the 'I love you, I love you too' thing. It's weird really and after seeing Ed in different lights, I'm still a little bewildered why he would do that to Min.

This book is great filled with teenage angst, unique, hilarious and sad stories charting Ed and Min's relationship - something that anyone would envy perhaps. I feel entirely for Min and I think Ed would be punched on mass if this was true. This book shows the ups and downs of teenage relationships and for adults, shows how even though teenagers may only be 17/18, being forever is still in their sights. This book, although not perfect, should be read just for the beautiful illustrations (done by Maira Kalman) and the right mix of originality and inevitability of this little book (and because it's Lemony Snicket...). It's great to see a novel that isn't 'happily ever after'.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 354
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Challenges: None

There's lots more about the 'Why We Broke Up' project, here

And like many, here's my break up story:

We broke up because we both know you liked my best friend. I liked someone else, so we're even.

We broke up because you were moving far far away. The day we broke up, I knew it from the moment I woke up that morning. I even told my friend, and after a conversation of 'Oh no he won't!', 'You'll be fine', 'Don't be silly', I felt reassured. It's hard sometimes when you prove you're right.

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