Why We Broke Up
Why We Broke Up
Daniel Handler, illus. by Maira Kalman
ISBN 9780316127257
Little, Brown, 2011.
Michael L. Printz honor book
5 stars
Keywords: daniel-handler friendship outsiders popularity romance why-we-broke-up

Why We Broke Up
by Daniel Handler, illus. by Maira Kalman

What makes Why We Broke Up so brilliant is that we know from page one that Minerva Green’s relationship with Ed Slaterton is over, and yet we read on. We can’t read Min’s funny, insightful “Dear John” letter fast enough.

As Min recounts her relationship with Ed Slaterton, co-captain of the basketball team, we can see its end coming like a train wreck. Yet Daniel Handler not only keeps readers riveted, but we also actually start to see in Ed what Min saw in Ed—she brought out his best self. Min meets Ed when he crashes her best friend Al’s Bitter Sixteen party, where Ed hides out after his team loses. “You didn’t even say ‘bitter birthday’ to your host and give a present, and that is why we broke up,” she writes. (By our count, that’s reason #2 of 12 total.) Min’s letter, which provides the entire text of the book, explains the contents of the box she is about to leave at Ed’s front door. Maira Kalman’s (Looking at Lincoln) full-color illustrations endow these mementos with all of Min’s emotion. The male and female bottle caps of Scarpia’s Bitter Black Ale from the night they met pulse with tension; pages of rose petals nearly fall from the book.

Min brought out the best in Ed, and his best is what she fell in love with. His compromise is the real betrayal, and this book will resonate with teens—and even adults—because far too many of us have stood in Min’s shoes.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

purchase in indiebound purchase in amazon
Join Newsletter