Why We Broke Up by David Handler, Illustrated by Maira Kalman

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One afternoon, while I was browsing the shelves of the YA section of my local library, I was attracted to the look of the cover of a book written by an author I had never encountered before. When I flipped to the inside jacket to read the synopsis and the author bio, I was incredibly overjoyed to find that the author of “Why We Broke Up,” is the same author that wrote the popular children’s books “The Series of Unfortunate Events” under the penname Lemony Snicket. Because I was a huge reader of “The Series of Unfortunate Events” (I was onboard with the depressing tales of these three orphans and their diabolic uncle while everyone else was infatuated with the boy who lived.), I was so ready to read this YA novel.

“Why We Broke Up” tells the story of an unlikely high school love affair between Min, an independent young woman who loves classic films and was never one to buy into what society expected of her, and Ed, a jock who revealed himself as genuine and kindhearted. The novel reads like a catalog, with Min pulling mementos of the relationship out of a cardboard box and telling the story of the items significance and then putting a spin on why that item should have revealed the end of the relationship. Each chapter is complete with an illustration of the item being described, done by illustrator, Maira Kalman.

I really enjoyed reading this book because Daniel Handler does a fantastic job of inhabiting the young, scorned, female teenager. Min is a multidimensional character who, when describing her failed relationship, emotes sadness, pain, anger, jealousy, confusion, regret, and so many of the emotions that one would experience with a breakup. However, the characters in “Why We Broke Up” rarely come off as whiny or petty. Daniel Handler is able to tell typical teenage love story that could easily become a droning account of tiny misgivings in an incredibly subtle and heartbreaking way.

A quick and easy read, I would suggest this to anyone who is or was a fan of “The Series of Unfortunate Events” or is in the mood for a little teenage drama.

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