Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (Illustrated by Maira Kalman)
Summary from Goodreads:
"I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened."
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.
I had this on my list because of all the book awards, I am most successful with the Printz, being a YA genre fan. Plus, the illustrations were really lovely, I wanted to eat them. Haha.
The title is a dead giveaway. So I knew the tone of this book and how it would go, generally. It's high school life, young love, heart ache, family issues, friend and boyfriend drama. But the entire story was told in an interestingly new and off-beat way. It reads like an epistolary journal and a picture book at the same time, detailing the relationship, from beginning to end, of an unlikely teen couple. Min Green, the artsy film buff; and Ed Slaterton, the handsome popular jock. It has that Daniel Handler (a.k.a Lemony Snicket) word play which added wit and amusement to the story. Although the 2nd person POV was a bit confusing for me. Same as with the rather unconventional sentence constructions, like the insertions of "is" in certain sentences. There are also a lot of old movie references, with Min Green being a film buff, most of which are movies I haven't a clue about, but I though it added much texture to the story and made it not flat, on account of the usual teen love and heartache theme.
Just as with every relationship, Min's and Ed's started out with nothing but sweetness. The stage where everything is coming up roses. But as Min writes about each and every item from the break-up box, underneath the sweet memories from that particular object, is already a hint here and there of the bitter taste to come, but not enough to let you formulate an actual answer to the book's title. There is that small build up of suspicion, with Ed being a bit of a jerk here and there but it's just the it's the-because-I-am-a-popular-jock-and-have-a-reputation-to-uphold-kind-of-jerk, not really the you're-a-spineless-cad-kind-of-jerk. I knew what was coming but not the details of it and when it did come, the answer, I still let out a sharp drawn breath.
Story wise, I can't say that this is one of my best contemporary YA read but I found it to be a pretty solid and relatable story. The sweetness of young love and the bitterness of a break-up. And of course the water color illustrations of the objects that were significant to the couple were just so so lovely. It's as if I have that break-up box right there. It reminded me of the movie Moonrise Kingdom, the bright colors, the oddity of the film. I feel like they share the same vibe. Those drawings were the highlight of this book for me. I may not have liked the story as much as I thought I would, but it's not because it wasn't good. It just wasn't much of my thing. So, I still consider it a very worthy YA read.
Award Winning Books Reading Challenge entry no. 3