Thursday, May 23, 2013

Throwback Thursday (book review): Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, ill. by Maira Kalman

Little Brown, 2011
Min is mad, but more than that, her heart is broken...

Min doesn't have a lot of friends, but the ones she does have are loyal and close, with Al being her closest friend.  Between him and the avant-garde movies she loves, her life is really good.  Until Ed Slaterton showed up....

She was "arty;" he was an athlete.  She had a free-spirit; his was defined by his friends.  Min was under the radar; Ed was the one girls wanted to be with and guys wanted to hang with.  Her lifestyle was nostalgic; his was trendy.  Both of them showed each other a new world.

It was a complete accident, their meeting.  She searched for him, he handed her a beer (which Min poured out discreetly).  They talked that night and soon, this led to another meeting, then another...and then they became a couple. 

And everyone wondered why they were together.  But Ed knew, with all of his heart, that Min was different and he loved the fact that she wasn't just another pretty face.  Min was secretly, than openly, thrilled about being Ed Slaterton's girlfriend, even if it meant she had to sacrifice some things, including her favorite coffee shop.

But today, she wants no part of Ed.  Nothing about him in her life is the cleansing she needs.  So she takes everything they ever shared, including a:
pinhole camera
toy truck
plant pod

oily kitchen towel....and so much, so many more.

They go in a box, along with her story of why they broke up. 

The premise of this book is simple.  Each chapter contains an item and the story that goes along with it in chronological order.  Told from Min's point of view, the reader becomes entangled in her story and the curiosity quotient is raised of how, not especially why, Min broke up with him.  But this book is unique in another very different way.  Daniel Handler writes with dangling participles galore.  It will take a reader to fine tune the voice in their head to follow the pattern his writing takes on, including the ever important comma pauses he uses.  It is also because of his stylized writing that Min's character truly comes out, filled with emotion and packed with meaning.  Handler also creates the town Min lives in and the world of film she loves, not with the branded names of coffee houses, Hollywood, and music, but with care, choosing imaginative names to convey the feeling each name evokes. 

Simple book, intricate writing....two very different styles that compliment and run alongside the two main characters in this book that reflect Handler's writing.  Interspersed throughout are deft, well-spaced illustrations of each item Min discards.  Recommended for high school (9-12).

Sidenote: it has been a long time since I've read a book that was actually sewn.  Also, this is a heavy book (literally, not figuratively) with glossy thick pages.  Not your typical YA book, and one that definitely stands out. 

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