I was interested in Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, I admit, largely because I wanted to see what the author of The Series of Unfortunate Events could do in the world of contemporary YA. And writing from the PoV of a heartbroken 16 year old girl. Then it went an earned itself a Printz Honor and I became even more interested.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Min Green and Ed
Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a
box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie
ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy
truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every
other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking
relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and
then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
This is a realistic and heart wrenching portrayal of a girl who has had her heart smashed to pieces, just as much by her own reckless wantings as by the boy who betrayed her trust. I loved that. I loved Min had a sarcastic and bitter tone through the book, but those things weren't directed at Ed (all the time), they were directed at herself. As she parses through all the moments in their relationship you can practically see her face-palming and hear her muttering, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." This book could be subtitled: What Happens When a Smart Girl Starts Thinking With Her Hormones, A Cautionary Tale. It is a dissertation on the importance of guarding your heart even when the boy who comes knocking on it is a hot basketball star who makes butterflies dance in your stomach. It is not an easy book to read. You know where it is going to end and, even if the title didn't give that away, it is obvious from the get go Ed is bad news for Min. The writing is on the wall, she is too bedazzled by lust to see it. This scenario plays out so often in real life that this book will most definitely find an audience who can relate. I really liked how in the end all Min really has is regrets. There is no "It is better to have loved.." sentimentality. There is no "at least I learned a valuable lesson". There is just "wow, how could I not see this for what it was".
My only complaint is that the narrative is almost stream of consciousness at points, which fits with the idea that this is a letter from Min to Ed, and it also helps us get to know Min better as a reader. It made the book really long though. If this was actually a letter it would have taken Min a couple weeks riding around in Al's truck to write it and Ed would never make it past page 30.
Note on Content: The book has quite a lot of strong language and some sex. Parents of younger YA readers might want to know this is there.