Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler: Book Review

WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler
Publication Date: December 27th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: |

Summary: 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.

Book Review Overview:

  • Realistic and I bet a lot of people can relate to it, but I couldn’t
  • A book you should own; so well done and beautifully made
  • For me, a huge drawback to the book was the stream-of-consciousness style of writing; I just can’t handle it.

My first reaction when I received this book was: wow, that is an awesome title. And then it was: Oh my god, I finally know Lemony Snicket’s real name?! This is Daniel Handler’s young adult debut. And in a Lemony Snicket fashion, this isn’t a fluffy tale with unicorns and rainbows. It’s actually quite depressing. It’s the story of Min and Ed and why they broke up.

I’m just going to take this time right now to give props to the fabulous Maira Kalman, illustrator of the gorgeous gorgeous watercolor illustrations in this book. My copy is an ARC. Unfortunately, I am only graced with a few black and white photographs in the book. LUCKILY, luckily, my ARC had come with these gorgeous postcards that were printed with the illustrations that were to be on the book. I know very little about critiquing art, so I will save all that mumbo-jumbo art talk because it’s not like I can execute. But what I’m trying to say is that the art just fits so well with Min’s story.They are a bit whimsical and they match the flow of Min’s stream-of-consciousness. This is a book you have to buy just because it’s made so well. (Yes, I’ve also seen the final version of this book and I had to pull myself away from Barnes & Noble.)

But unlike, the illustrations, I have to admit that I did have a hard time with the writing style. Stream-of-consciousness is not my favorite. Props to Virginia Woolf and all that, but this prose had way too much flow going on for me. I like periods. Not never-ending sentences. But the writing style does reflect the way some people ramble when they talk. It added a conversational tone to the story, but

But despite the fact I skipped a few paragraphs here and there – Min rambles that much – I couldn’t help but notice how much truth there was in her words. Daniel Handler truly captures what it’s like to be a teen blindingly in love. I knew that Ed would turn out to be Big Trouble – hell-o, the title of the book is WHY WE BROKE UP – but I could totally see why Min would fall so easily for Ed. He’s super charming and he says the right things. All the time. But come on, for a movie buff like Min, she had to know that a jock with a string of slutty ex-girlfriends had to mean bad news. She even realizes this later on. Ed was just a little too good to be true.

And for the record, oh my heart breaks for the best friend, Al. I constantly root for the underdog and this was no exception. Al is just so perceptive. It’s hard not to like him.

I love that we get a little glimpse to what Min is like post-Ed. The ending is hopeful, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of Min for overcoming such a bad break-up but at the same time realizing she has to move on to much better things in life. But at the same time, I wanted a more dramatic Happily Ever After, but that is totally just the romantic in me left unsatisfied.

WHY WE BROKE UP is a fantastic book to give to a friend who just experienced a really bad break-up. Or to an ex-boyfriend who is quite similar to Ed. Those who don’t mind a bittersweet contemporary would most likely enjoy this one as well.

And if you’re curious as to how Lemony Snicket does YA, pick this up. He effortlessly transitions into writing the YA genre and I look forward to reading more of Daniel Handler’s work.

Why I’m Biased: I had high expectations for this book because my friend Tasha loved it so much.

Other Book Reviews:
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About the Author

Daniel Handler is the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs, and as Lemony Snicket, a sequence of children’s novels collectively entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events. He also plays the accordion.

Find the Author

Website | GoodReads


  1. And whoa, that’s Lemony Snicket’s face!? (In reference to your “about the author” section) I have the ARC of this as well, and I’ve been waffling over whether to read it or not. I’m not the biggest fan of stream of consciousness writing, either, but the story sounds so good! Thanks for the review, Cialina. =)

  2. Although Handler is AWESOME, I picked this one up in B&N and actually put it back after reading a chunk of it. It didn’t grab me as much as I expected it to. I think I’ll get it at a later time when I’ve got nothing else to read.

    Thanks for the review!

  3. I didn’t know this was Snicket’s young adult debut! It’s so weird to see his real name/face. I remember how curious I used to be as a kid.

    I didn’t know there were watercolors in the book either! That sounds like a neat/new concept. I love multimedia.

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