January 11, 2013
Why We Broke Up
by Daniel Handler
Illustrations by Maira Kalman
Ah, young love. The bliss, the contentment, the intoxication of being young and in love.
But when things don't turn out exactly as expected, there's the agony. The torment. The eventual depression.
Ah, to be so young and (already) jaded.
* * *
Why We Broke Up is actually a long-winded letter written by high school sophomore, Minerva "Min" Green, to her erstwhile basketball jock boyfriend, Ed Slaterton. (I am not enclosing the fact of their breakup in spoiler tags because look, the title of the novel announces it clearly.) Min writes the letter en route to Ed's house, with her friend Al driving his truck, to drop off a boxful of trinkets and stuff that she accumulated over the short period of time when she was crazy, romantically involved with Ed.
At my age, writing an exhaustively long letter containing a litany of reasons for breaking up with a guy and returning to him stuff that remind me of the failed relationship reek juvenile. You know: I never want to be see anything that is even remotely related to you so here, you can have these stuff back. Cue tears and sniffles. Ah, the drama. But hey, I was a teenager once, too. Once upon a time, I experienced being so obnoxiously in love. At least, I thought I was. And once upon a time, too, my heart was so badly broken, and I contemplated returning stuff to the boy who broke my heart.
"Contemplated." Might as well be candid--I did no such thing, ever. Because at no point in my life did I ever think it was cathartic or helpful, in the least bit, in getting over a breakup, whether good or bad. It's just a tad too melodramatic for my taste.
But this isn't about me, now, is it? It's about Min, Ed, and why they broke up.
* * *
There are bottle caps from when they first met. There's a pennant sporting the name of the school's varsity basketball team, at whose games Min was obliged to watch and cheer. There are movie and game tickets, a book, empty condom packets, a pair of earrings. In this aspect where Min collects keepsakes of her relationship with Ed, we are exactly the same. As I read through her letter, I could actually feel her devastation. More than that, though, when she recounted the happier times with Ed, I could also feel how much she truly loved him.
Ah, young love.
I loved how the immediate reason for their breakup came totally unexpected--at least for me--when it should not have been so. You know how you miss something that's right under your very nose? Well that was how it was for Min--and for me- that I could totally, completely understand how angry she was. And how Ed was totally, completely an asshole.
I also loved how the book was presented: each trinket from Min's box introduces a chapter in their love story, a reminder of a day in their short-lived relationship. The book had its highlights and it had its, oh, yawn-inducing parts, but I didn't mind. These are the thoughts of a devastated and angry young woman, not completely over her heartbreak yet, so it's quite forgivable if she spews incoherent thoughts or babbles endless sentences every so often.
One will not also be able to help admiring the illustrations, which are a visual delight.
Running my fingers through the glossy pages felt so good as well.
* * *
"I can't stop thinking about you."
Book Details: My own, a Christmas gift from kris kringle mommy Mavic, hardbound