Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Hello lovelies!

I don't know about you, but I know that my youth was spent reading the book series by Lemony Snicket, The Series of Unfortunate Events. I still read those books because they are that well written, that funny, and that amazing. I'm slowly working my way back through the series whenever I just need a little book to fill an afternoon. (I even wrote a blog post about The Bad Beginning about a year ago.)

After discovering like everyone else did that Lemony Snicket was an amazing pen name (If I just ruined your childhood.. I am so very sorry. This is like that time I told the last two 13 year olds on Earth the ending of Romeo and Juliet and they just started crying... my bad. Belated spoiler alerts all around.) I was excited to find out that Daniel Handler, the winner behind Snicket, had written a young adult novel! I couldn't believe it! Probably my favorite childhood author was now writing books in my favorite genre.

I grabbed a copy when I finally knew I had some time to read the book in what I expected would be one sitting. The cover was marvelous, a little off and strange, just like his middle grade book series. I expected nothing less.

The book has amazing art at the beginnings of each chapter. I just loved how colorful this book looked and felt. I was excited to see how the usual sad story of a break up would be twisted by Handler, who was always able to make a horrible situation bearable with expert dark humor. 

The book is about a girl named Min. (her full name is Minerva... it's a long story, and she'll tell you all about it.) She is returning a box of memories to her now ex boyfriend Ed Slaterton, her complete opposite and her first love. This book is her letter to him accompanying the items gathered during their time together.

First lines:

"Dear Ed, In a sec you'll hear a thunk. At your front door, the one nobody uses. It'll rattle the hinges a bit when it lands, because it's so weighty and important, a little jangle along with the thunk, and Joan will look up from whatever she's cooking. She will look down in her saucepan, worried that if she goes to see what it is it'll boil over. I can see her frown in the reflection of the bubbly sauce or whatnot. But she'll go, she'll go and see. You won't, Ed. You wouldn't. You're upstairs probably, sweaty and alone. You should be taking a shower, but you're heartbroken on the bed, I hope, so it's your sister, Joan, who will open the door even though the thunk's for you. You won't even know or hear what's being dumped at your door. You won't even know why it even happened."

I automatically loved Min as well as the premise of the book. Throughout the book, I always loved Min. She had the lady balls to do something I always wanted to do to ex boyfriends but never did. Go Min, go! Min was sassy and real throughout the novel. My heart ached for her as she fell deeper in love with Ed and it felt like comforting a friend as I read her words, knowing that as she wrote the letter to Ed, she was healing. She felt like my sister. I wanted her to get over her butthead ex, and I wanted to help. 

Min was described beautifully throughout the book. She was described annoyingly often by the people around her as "different" and "arty," words I have heard to describe me a fair few times. She doesn't see herself as that way. She sees herself as simply Min. Unremarkable. Person. Girl. And someone who has remarkably caught the interest of Ed Slaterton, hottie of all hotties.

Min was the best part of the entire book. However... I absolutely HATED Ed Slaterton. Like Min, he was nothing at all my type. He was the captain of the basketball team, he likes beer, he is a serial dater and dumper who has probably slept with half of the cheerleaders. Basically, he is the person I avoid. He is the person Min avoids until they end up talking at a party he crashes. 

The problem I had with Ed was that I saw literally nothing likable about this boy. Nothing at all. Not even in the little moments when he was sweet to Min, or when he told her he loved her before she even told him. The only thing I saw was a manipulator who was only going to hurt her. Which... I still haven't decided if this was the intention of the author. If it was, this book was amazing. I just feel like I wanted something to like about him. Even though I knew the breakup was coming, even as I assumed before I heard the whole story that it was his fault, I wanted to see a shadow of what Min saw in him. The problem was that I didn't. I thought he was a jerk from start to finish, which made the book a bit hard to read.

Along with Ed being the literal worst, the writing of the book was very difficult for me to dive in to. The sentences all seemed incredibly long, words were flip-flopped within known phrases, and paragraphs seemed to jump around quite a bit between thoughts. 

In The Series of Unfortunate Events, these long paragraphs that spanned an entire two pages happened quite frequently, which was fine. The twisting words and jumping thoughts matched the heightened reality of the world those books were set in. But because this was such a realistic story, it sort of seemed out of place for such word tricks. I just wanted a story told directly to me with no word jumps. The super crazy language didn't seem to match a story that is so real and so relatable. 

Along with that, Min is a huge film junkie, which is great! The issue I had was that she would reference all of these films from their world and actors in those films and how those stories related to her life. I loved it the first time it happened. I loved the dedication Handler had to their world and by being so dedicated he made it feel real to me. The issue I had was that these analogies between the story and movies happened so frequently and seemed to just appear in the middle of paragraphs. They were a bit hard to follow because of the sentence length. They seemed to ramble on and on and on and the references were all above my head. Pretty brilliant actually, since the letter is written to Ed, who would have the same reaction as I did. Well played, Daniel Handler, well played.

This review all seems rather harsh. I did enjoy the book once I finally sat down and read for an extended period of time. Behind the twisted words was a story I loved and a character I really cared about. The parts that were written realistically really bit at my soul and reminded me of a few very hard breakups. It was amazing how much I related to Min and this tory. I've read break up stories before. What was great about this was that Min was allowed to stay angry at Ed for hurting her. So many break up books are about a character healing and realizing that that person, although not right for them, is still a good person even though they broke their heart. I LOVED that Min recognized that Ed was a jerk and let herself feel that. 

She sees that he's a jerk, but she also knows that she really did love him. That's where her confusion is and really, where my confusion from a few relationships has been since we broke up. It was beautiful to read about how Min loved Ed, as jerky as he was.

"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."

Did you hear that? That was my heart ripping into 800 pieces. I know that feeling. That damn love that won't die just because the boy is a jerk. Just because you know you deserve better doesn't mean you can stop loving him. This book showed that a lot, something I think is valuable for people to know. People aren't told a lot that it's ok to love someone after something has ended. It's ok to be melancholy and sad before you move on. It's ok to grieve. 

It was also really fun to have a book written toward the person who caused the pain, and not written as the character getting over the pain. It was a great release as a reader. In a lot of ways this book helped me get over a few break ups by letting Min say some things to Ed I've wanted to say before. 

All in all, I'd give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. I would really recommend this book to anyone who has felt the pain of a break up or just wants to meet a few characters who are fun to get to know. This was a fun book to read, and it's a story and a character I won't forget soon. 

Until next time, happy reading! I'd love to hear any recommendations you have for me, or your thoughts about anything I'v read. Leave your comments below; I'd love to hear from you!

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