Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Art by Maira Kalman

broke up Hindsight is 20/20:

Most relationships collect things along the way –little trinkets that hold a memory of a whole night or maybe just a moment. The breakup story of Min and Ed is told through the significance of 25 items that, looking back, are keys to why they broke up. From bottle caps to ticket stubs the relationship swells and breaks within the confines of these objects. We go with Min as she looks back upon their story both with clouded eyes of love and the clear-headed eyes of a sober (out of love) person. The novel is one long letter explaining the reasons for the beginning and end of their relationship. Their story is familiar, the old stomping ground of 80's movies: two people from different sides of the social stratosphere meet and, against all odds, fall in love. John Hughes was a sucker at heart and most of his heroines got their happy ending. But unlike Hughes, Handler gives that classic routine a reality check in the dramatic, sometimes funny, and always realistic story of Min and Ed. Min is an artsy old-movie fanatic, Ed is co-captain of the basketball team with celebrity status and a string of ex-girlfriends. But when they meet at a party they connect. The plot seems routine; it is the details and the characters that make this title stand out. I love Maira Kalman's work in general, but her paintings of the items framing Handler's prose are the epitome of the beauty of form and content. Her paintings pack the emotional punch to Min's words and give the book its cinematic feel. The cover art alone (a teacup paused in the moment before it falls to broken pieces, paralleling Min and Ed's own break into pieces) is a great example of a how a well-designed book can help bring the story to life.

Handler can be likened to John Green for sure as both make their teens quite witty, and both take on the trials of those years with gusto. Here is a little taste of Min: "I love like a fool, like a Z-grade off-brand romantic comedy, a loon in too much makeup saying things in an awkward script to a handsome man with his own canceled comedy show. I'm not a romantic, I'm a half-wit…I'm like every single miserable moron I've scorned and pretended I didn't recognize. ..The only particle I had, the only tiny thing raising me up, is that I was Ed Slaterton's girlfriend, loved by you for like ten secs, and who cares…How utterly incorrect to think it any other way, a box of crap is treasures, a boy smiling means it, a gentle moment is a life improved."

I highly recommend checking this out. And if you need to, Daniel Handler has created the "Why We Broke Up Project," a website devoted to telling your own breakup story. Express feelings, explain reasons, or relate anything else that bothered or bothers. Everyone has a story, and Handler has created an outlet for any and all emotional outbursts. Some end happy, most don't, but a lot are quite humorous.

Check it out  Review by Lizzy Healy