Why We Broke Up Book Review

This Book is for the Recently Single | Why We Broke Up Book Review

Recovering red flag chasers can relate.

Falling for a guy even though you just *know* he’s going to break your heart – we’ve all been there, right? If not, this book describes what it’s like. 

Related: Heartbreak Anniversary: 8 Spots to Break Up with Your Not-So-Special Someone

Lovesickness is a dangerous and unexpected thing. A person could give you bad vibes from the outset. But with a combination of just the wrong place, the wrong timing, and him smiling at you one too many times and – BAM. You’re dead in the water. You start to hear clown music in your head every time you ignore one of their many bright, red flags. All in all, you’re about to have a bad time.

That’s the situation we find ourselves in in Daniel Handler’s “Why We Broke Up”. Brilliantly illustrated by Maira Kalman, the novel follows a month-long relationship between two highschoolers who probably should’ve never gotten together in the first place. 

Why *did* we break up?

Why We Broke Up follows Min Green, a high school teen cinephile, who is writing a letter to her now ex-boyfriend, Ed Slaterton- a popular basketball jock from the same school who is said to have dated many of his female classmates. Their short love story is told through this letter, where she narrates the events of their relationship while also cataloging a variety of items that were special to them. However, Min has put all these items together in a box, along with the break-up letter, to dump onto Ed’s doorstep and get closure. 

This style of storytelling, combined with the accompanying illustrations make for an interesting read. Getting to see artifacts of their time together (like bottle caps, tickets, and bottles) helps the reader visualize the events and adds texture to the narrative. Additionally, having the story told through a letter where our main character is addressing the love interest/villain adds a layer of visceral, raw emotion to the words. 

As the title of the novel suggests, Min and Ed’s story is not a happy one. We find out in the last few pages of the book that Ed has been cheating on her with one of his exes. This is the last straw for Min – the one that causes her to dump him on the spot – but there are other points in the story where the reader is clued into Ed’s questionable character, which begs the next question.

How did we even get together?

Perhaps a third of the way into the book, after Min has explained how they met and also the various character flaws that led to her breaking up with Ed once and for all, the reader is left there pondering: Girl, if things were so bad, why did you even get with him?

Where Why We Broke Up shines is in the moments where Min says things like “this is why we stayed together” and she describes the ways that Ed’s presence in her life cut through the monotony of the everyday and brought her genuine joy. This is what happy crushes and relationships do for us. They give us a bit of levity in an otherwise cruel, depressing life, and give us something to look forward to. Sometimes we’re with people even if we know they’re not good for us in the long run, because the power of how they make us feel in the present moment is enough. 

The book ends in a hopeful place. After Min has gotten everything off her chest, she seems to be on a path to healing. This is true for us all. For better or for worse, nothing lasts. Your ability to survive the most painful of heartbreaks is one of the most amazing things about you. 

Should you read this book?

Reading level: Medium – While this read uses everyday language, the author uses a lot of run-on sentences, which can make it sometimes difficult to follow the main character’s train of thought. There’s also a lot of references to made-up non-mainstream Western media that may cause you to pause. 

Hard relate counter: [confidential]

Cry counter: 3

Read this if: You like to rub salt in your own wounds and be reminded of your own clown behavior OR as a cautionary tale. We hope for your sake it’s the latter. (But no judgment! Everyone makes mistakes. We’re all in the lifelong learning business together.) 

Fun Fact: The author, Daniel Handler, also goes by the pen name Lemony Snicket. That’s right – he also wrote the set of children’s novels “A Series of Unfortunate Events”! 

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