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Why We Broke Up, Daniel Hander & Maira Kalman

2012/01/31

I picked this up after it was named a 2012 Printz Honor book, and I really thought that this was a graphic novel when I ordered it. The credits “novel by Daniel Handler, Art by Maira Kalman” implied an illustration-driven story, but this book is far more prosey than a typical graphic novel, with scattered illustrations rather than a picture narrative.

In this novel, an aspiring film director, sixteen-year-old Min, relates the growth and death of her relationship with basketball team co-captain Ed through mementos that she is packing into a box to return to him. These items, which include movie ticket stubs, posters, bottle caps, paper napkins, and other scraps, each tell a little piece of the story of their short relationship, from their first date to their inevitable dramatic breakup. The pace picks up towards the end as the tension between Min and Ed escalates.

Books like this make me so glad to not be a high schooler. Min, looking retrospectively at her relationship, sees the warning signs and the hints that her boyfriend is not the catch that she thinks he is; his sister, her mother, and her friends all have some things to say, but she chooses to ignore them, much to her later chagrin and regret. I found the story to be well-written; Min is a likeable narrator, though I wanted to shake her and tell her to listen to her friends when they suggest that Ed is not quite what he seems. The book has a slightly different feel than the typical Dessen or Caletti novel, but fans of those will probably enjoy this.

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