Why We Broke Up Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman
In a sec you'll hear a thunk. At your front door, the one nobody uses...I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. And the truth is that I goddamn loved you so much...
The thunk is the box, Ed. This is what I am leaving you. Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb. I'm dumping the whole box back into your life, Ed, every item of you and me.
And the box does have everything from their relationship-- bottle caps and flower petals, ticket stubs and a coat, a protractor and some sugar... and the world's longest letter, detailing every detail of Ed and Min's relationship and where, and how it went wrong.
Ed is the jock, co-captain of the basketball team, with a string of popular girl girlfriends. Min is... not arty. Don't say she's arty. But she's smart and I guess we can call her alterna-girl. Not the kind Ed usually goes for. But he goes for Min.
We know it won't work for a number of reasons-- the premise of the book and the first page tell us it already ended. As an adult reader, you just know they're doomed from the set-up of personalities, but as Min details their relationship, pointing out all the red flags, you still end up cheering for them and their love and you hope they won't break up.
I love the structure-- the telling through the objects that Maira Kalman so beautifully paints. I love this book as an object-- the paper is heavy and glossy, like a coffee table book.
I had a hard time getting into it at first, but I think that was more about my head space than the book itself. But, because of it, I read it over the course of a month and in that drawn-out time frame, I became really invested in this doomed love. The way Min writes about it, it sounds like a relationship that slowly unravels and then you get to the moment of the actual break up and... Min, sweetie. You don't need 354 pages to tell Ed why you broke up. It's one sentence. He isn't worth the ink.
And that was a very disappointing end.
But, I did like portions of it. I like that Min was an "arty" girl who wasn't arty. I like that she thought she was so much deeper than she was. It was a bit annoying, but very, very, very true. I was friends with Min in high school. I like that we never found out the exact deal with Ed's mom. I liked Ed's sister and I liked that we saw more to Ed than the stereotypical jock, but he was still a total popular boy jock.
My favorite was Min's friend Lauren, who would sing hymns at Min to torture her into spilling information. When Lauren was seven, she saw symbols in a speech balloon, and her super-Christian parents were too God-fearing to explain that the symbols meant fuck so freshman year she had this joke of saying "numbersign questionmark you" and "astrisk exclamtionpoint the world." If I were still in high school, hanging out with Min, this would be a speech pattern I'd immediately adopt. (You are so lucky you didn't know me back then. I really was insufferable)
So. This is a book that I can understand why people are gaga for it, but in the end, I wanted to like it so much more than I actually did.
Book Provided by... my local library
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