Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, published by Electric Monkey on 6th August 2012
This is the box, Ed. Inside is everything. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket from Greta in the Wind, a note from you, a box of matches, your protractor, Joan's book, the stolen sugar, a toy truck, those ugly earrings, a comb from the motel, and the rest of it. This is it Ed. The whole story of how we broke up.
This book is simply gorgeous! Written by Daniel Handler, author of the fabulous Lemony Snicket series, it is beautifully illustrated throughout by Maira Kalman. When it first arrived, I spent ages leafing through it just looking at all the lovely art. This book is so lovely that you'll want to have it sitting on your shelves so that you can pull it down and show it off to all your friends.
The premise of 'Why We Broke Up' is to chart the end of the relationship between Min and her boyfriend Ed. At the very start, Min returns to him a box full of items which are connected to the time they spent together and then proceeds to tell him through a series of letters which make up the book itself, why each of these are significant to the reason they are no longer a couple. I thought that their story was uniquely told by Handler, who takes us back to show us the start, middle and end of their love and the pain felt by Min over their break-up.
Min and Ed are an unusual couple because he is your typical jock, sometimes more interested in playing basketball than in spending time with her. She's the polar opposite in so many ways. She's extremely cultured and loves old films (a passion I share with her!). She has a few close friends, such as the fabulous Al but isn't part of the social scene in the same way that Ed is and so the two come across as not having many mutual interests. I liked the way that she tried to always remain true to herself, even though she's often being pulled in different directions by her feeling for Ed.
The story itself started off well, but I thought that it started getting a bit repetitive in the middle and I seemed to be waiting for something more to happen. As much of the book is about Min's feelings and emotions, I found it quite slow in places, with not enough actually going on to keep my interest at times.
I think I actually loved the idea of the book, more than I loved the actual book itself. I like the fact that Daniel Handler tries to explore the pain of a break-up and of the loss of a first love but although I connected with the character of Min, I found Ed came across as slightly shallow and I never felt that I'd really gotten to the bottom of what made him who he was.
'Why We Broke Up' is an interesting (and gorgeous) book but probably not one that I'd want to read over and over again. Although for me it didn't tick all the boxes, I have read some brilliant reviews of this title, so I would suggest reading it and giving it a try...if only to enjoy the simply divine artwork thoughout.