Why We Broke Up
By: Daniel Handler
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
This book gave me so many conflicting opinions. The writing is beautiful in some places, but other times it gets a little bit distracting and convoluted. Maybe that's what it was supposed to be, but I can't say that I always enjoyed it. Though, the places I did enjoy it, it was absolutely beautiful. I love that books can do things like this, they can try different styles, and I appreciate this book for its originality.
The artwork is gorgeous, too. I loved the way it was used, too. It felt very organic for the type of prose and for the way it was arranged. These weren't the aspects where the book dropped me, and in fact, they're the reason I kept reading. Because here is where I start listing my problems with this book.
The characters. I know that unlikable characters are important, and oftentimes I like 'unlikable' characters because they're interesting and realistic. I just couldn't find the motive for any of these characters, and their actions all felt too bizarre. For that reason, I found myself not giving a single crap about any of them. Not Vin, not Al, and especially not Ed. I hated Ed, but not in the way that makes a book more interesting to me. I hated him in a I-really-want-to-stop-reading-about-your-stupid-life sort of way. Maybe it's because I've known guys like him, the jock who feels so entitled, and it made me too irrationally angry. Unfortunately, that made me not connect with Min because I couldn't see why anyone would want to date someone like that. And I know the book is all about them breaking up, but the majority of the story is them dating.
For these reasons, I didn't enjoy a large portion of this book and it was a pretty big struggle to get through. But I hope that more books start taking risks like this in terms of design and format, because this book nails it in those departments. I just wish I could have seen more from the characters.
"I gave you an adventure, Ed, right in front of you but you never saw it until I showed you, and that's why we broke up."
"And then the third night was after we broke up, which was worth a million matches but instead just took all I had. That night it felt that somehow by flicking them off the roof, the matches would burn down everything, the sparks from the tips of the flames torching the world and all the heartbroken people in it. Up in smoke I wanted everything, up in smoke I wanted you..."
"It boomed inside me the whole time, an explosion over and over, the joy of what you wrote to me jumpy shrapnel in my bloodstream."
"All gone, indelible but invisible, not quite everything but everything but..."
"I love like a fool, like a Z-grade off-brand romantic comedy, a loon in too much makeup saying things in an awkward script to a handsome man with his own canceled comedy show. I'm not a romantic, I'm a half-wit."