Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Genre: YA, contemporary
Published on December 27, 2011
Published by Little, Brown Books
Pages: 354
Read From: 1.28.15 - 1.31.15

This is the box, Ed. 
Inside is everything. 
Two bottle caps, a movie ticket from Greta in the Wilda note from you, a box of matches, your protractor, Joan's book, the stolen sugar, a toy truck, those ugly earrings, a comb from the motel, and the rest of it. 
This is it, Ed. 
The whole story of why we broke up.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I really like the cover art. It's simple and unique and somehow intriguing. It definitely caught my attention, though the author's name might have had something to do with that, too (Daniel Handler! AKA Lemony Snicket!). Did this book live up to my expectations? Well, sort of.

Characters: I did like a lot of the characters, which is pretty rare for me with a contemporary romance. Al was my favorite: Minerva's best friend who is with her through thick and thin, no matter what; he's always there. I just absolutely love the dependable, loyal best friend characters. I can't get enough of them. And Al is such a sweet, nice friend; can I put him in my pocket? Minerva herself I flopped between liking her and being totally frustrated with her. Most of us have been infatuated with the wrong person before - or in my case, just been friends with the wrong person. You make excuses for their behavior, even though in the back of your mind, you know that it isn't right. Minerva is us during this point in our life. You understand, but you want to smack her, because you know it's going to end badly (and not just because the book's title is a strong indicator of how things turn out). And then there's Ed, her boyfriend. . . .There wasn't a single moment when I liked Ed. Ed is a very obvious jerk, a very obvious player, and such a jock. From the beginning, it's clear that he and Minerva are not a good match. And when Ed hangs out with Minerva and her friends - well, I think that's when I really decided to dislike him. Ed's sister Joan was pretty awesome, and I rather hope that in the land of story continuation (because no character's life ends with the book) Minerva and Joan somehow managed to be friends after everything.

The Romance: Of course, Why We Broke Up is filled to the brim with "romance." And I didn't mind it so much because it wasn't a romance you were supposed to support. It ends in a breakup; you know that starting the book. And because you know it, it's painful to read about Minerva trying so hard to make something that won't work - work. However, there's also another romantic interest: Al. Yes, the best friend. It's subtle and I won't tell you where it goes, but I loved it. Al and Minerva! Perfect for each other!

Plot: Minerva was, for a while, the girlfriend of basketball co-captain Ed. She couldn't believe her luck at being signaled out by such a cool guy! However, something goes wrong - actually, several things do. And now Minerva is returning a box to Ed - a box filled with items that explain all the reasons that they broke up. The plot is kind of painful. Like I said in the above category, Why We Broke Up is essentially about Minerva trying to make something that won't work - work. And the Reader knows it's going to be a painful slow downhill for her, and you can see it happening from the beginning, but you want to know what the final straw is that makes Minerva decide that enough is enough. I wasn't exactly invested in the plot, but I did want to know the ending. That's about it. Minerva made mistake after mistake - a lot of them "no, duh" mistakes, so I slowly stopped feeling sorry for her. And my heart began to break for poor Al, as he watched his best friend make so many bad decisions. In a lot of ways, I couldn't wait for the painful experience to be done.

Believability: No complaints.

Writing Style: First person, part past tense, part present. The story is narrated by Minerva, and she's writing a letter to Ed about each of the items in the box - and how it led to them breaking up. So it reads as if you, the Reader, are Ed and you're reading Minerva's letter. I'll admit that the narration style is what mostly got me to read this book. With the pictures and the style, it was very interesting, and I'm a sucker for unique narration devices. A lot of times, though, Minerva's narration read like stream-of-consciousness, and it became difficult to totally understand everything that she was saying.

Content: 31 f-words, 25 g--damns, 16 s-words. Minerva and Ed do "everything but" and eventually sleep together. It's not super graphic, but explicit enough to be frown-worthy.

Conclusion: Like All the Bright Places, this book left me wondering, What was the point? Other than to serve as a cautionary tale against dating the wrong guy? The ending was abrupt enough that I didn't even get a sense that Minerva learned anything from her experience. Overall, Why We Broke Up was an interesting exploration into an intriguing narration style. I liked several of the side characters and the quirkiness of their little group. But I didn't feel sorry for Minerva because she made a lot of stupid decisions that common sense should have told her not to do.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of contemporary.

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