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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

July 31, 2012

“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.


I quickly requested an early review copy of this as soon as I started hearing comparisons to the wonderful work of John Green, and I can’t even begin to tell you just how much I truly loved this book.

First off, the comparisons to John Green are spot on. Daniel Handler (who you may not realise wrote the Lemony Snicket books!) may have his own unique style of writing, and you never feel like he is trying to be like John Green, but he very much explores the same themes of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time and inevitably what it’s like when it all shatters to pieces. Handler certainly has that same essence of truth to his writing where everything feels so real and believable, as though these characters are people you really know or who probably remind you of yourself at that age. To put it bluntly, if you enjoy John Green’s work, I almost guarantee you will love this book.

The novel has a wonderfully original and very unique feel to it – with Min writing a letter to her now ex-boyfriend Ed, as she details everything she has gathered in a box from their time together, to give back to him as a final goodbye. This whole idea just transported me right back to my youth of first love. I remember having a box full of utterly useless rubbish which held some kind of sentimental value to me at the time, which held memories of time spent with that special someone. I thought this was a thing most girls did, but after asking around, it seems it may just be me and Min here! Regardless, I still completely related to Min as a character and thought it was a wonderful idea for a novel. There are also some very charming illustrations by Maria Kalman scattered throughout, mostly of the items inside the box. These add a whole other dimension to the novel, and it makes it even more beautiful not only to read, but even just to hold!

One thing that should be noted is that there are countless references to apparently old black and white movies throughout, as Min is a bit of a film-buff, but what you may notice as you read on is that you don’t recognise any of the titles! This is because Daniel Handler has actually made them all up. At first this completely threw me. Admittedly I don’t consider myself very knowledgeable on old movies, so I just figured I didn’t know them and it was all going slightly over my head. But when asking a colleague about it, she said she had googled it and discovered that they are all the creation of Handler’s imagination! I can imagine this may confuse a few of the younger adults that pick this up, but I really hope they can see beyond it, and see the charm and sheer brilliance behind it!

Why We Broke Up didn’t leave me in a mess of tears and tissues like John Green’s The Fault in our Stars did, but I really did feel an emotional connection to these characters, and I literally cherished every single page. It’s definitely one of my books of the year, and I hope this review will encourage more people to pick it up and give it a go! I’m sure most of us have experienced what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, and no matter what age you are or whether you’re male or female, I challenge each of you not to find something in this book that will capture your heart and stay with you for many years to come.

Why We Broke Up is published on 6th August by Electric Monkey. A big thank you goes to the publisher for providing me with an early review copy.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2012 03:46

    It’s so interesting to see our beloved Lemony Snicket write on subject matter so different from the Series of Unfortunate Events series. I applaud him for it!

  2. Alex in Leeds permalink
    August 1, 2012 10:09

    Sounds lovely!

    Also, you and Min aren’t the only ones with treasured bits and bobs from love affairs in a box. I used to have a box of the most *meaningful* gig tickets possible when I was in my teens. 🙂

    • August 2, 2012 18:08

      So glad to see I’m not alone with the box thing 😛 Sounds like you should definitely read this book too! 🙂


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