WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler

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Ed is likely sitting at home, heartbroken.  Still, he probably won’t even notice when Min drops the box on his doorstep.  Inside the box are all of the things that she saved from their relationship, all of which tell the story of why they broke up.  But in case he doesn’t see the objects the same way she does, Min is writing Ed a very detailed letter explaining each item and its significance.  As a future film director, Min is poetic and visual in her writing, conjuring scenes from their relationship, beginning with Al’s Bitter Sixteen Party that Ed crashed, continuing through the adventures of planning a birthday party for an elderly movie star, faltering at the challenges of balancing a relationship with friendships and individual interests, and finally ending with the pain, the heartache, and the realization that so many things just shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

This book surprised me.  In fact, it blew me away.  I do not generally enjoy reading books about relationships.  But Why We Broke Up is perhaps the most genuine, realistic depiction of first love and the heartache of a broken relationship that I have ever read.  Min is a beautifully human character: cynical yet naive, confident in her individuality yet insecure, “different” and “arty” yet ultimately the same as any other teenage girl in love.  There is explicit sexual content in this book, but the author portrays both the fun and positive intimacy of the physical relationship as well as the awkwardness, vulnerability, embarrasment, and ultimate emotional devastation of a premature physical commitment.

I will reiterate that this book has mature content and is not for all readers.  But older teens (particularly girls) who have dealt with love and a break up, who enjoy reading books about relationships, or who just want a sobering dose of reality after reading romance novels like Twilight may find Min’s story as captivating as I do.

If you liked Why We Broke Up, you may like Eleanor and Park.  You may also like Thirteen Reasons Whywhich has different subject matter but a similarly creative narrative style.

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