The Story Of This Story: “Why We Broke Up”

why we broke up

My adoration for young adult fiction (correction: good young adult fiction) is no secret. And if we’re going to be completely honest with each other, dear readers, I’m still recovering from Fifty Shades of Grey. I need to read things that leave me feeling okay with the world. I had heard about Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up a while back, but hadn’t had the time to read it, or more simply kept forgetting about it. Why the intrigue? Daniel Handler is actually one of the most well-known authors to date. You may know him better, though, as Lemony Snicket.

What he gives us with Why We Broke Up is the story of Ed and Min, short for Minerva. The entire novel is told from Min’s perspective as she writes Ed a laundry list of the reasons things are over between them. She also includes objects in a box, with the letters corresponding with the tokens of their brief love affair. It began on October 5th and ended on November 12th; such is young love, though, eh?

Much of the plot centers around Min and Ed throwing a birthday party for an actress they see in a vintage movie theater on their first date. The actress is the imagined Lottie Carson, who stars in the film they are seeing, Greta in the Wild. Min believes she sees her in the audience, and they follow her, not ever confirming if it is the actual Lottie or not. Throughout their love story, they plan a party to throw for the maybe-real, maybe-fake Lottie Carson.

Min is younger than Ed. He’s a junior, she is a sophomore. She is different from other girls; she likes old films and aspires to be a director someday. Hearing the story in her voice can you bring you back to high school, as she’s repetitive but in a charming way. She just really really really really needs to get her point across to Ed sometimes.

Ed is interesting in the sense that we only see Min’s version of him, post-split. She has moments where she, begrudgingly, admits some of the nicer things he has done for her, but it just makes her sad so she changes her mind just as quickly. She is, after all, a teenage girl. Ed is a star basketball player and devastatingly cute, because why wouldn’t he be? He has had many an ex, but truly only stayed friends with one, Annette. Annette, incidentally, is the only one of his exes that is nice to Min. Ed also lives with his mother and sister Joan.

The interesting thing about the novel is that we never actually meet Ed’s mother, so the assumption is that Min doesn’t either. As she goes through each artifact of love, she never mentions meeting the woman. We know Ed’s mother is alive, and possibly ill, but it’s never explained. Initially, when I realized this, I was a bit irked until it occurred to me that a teenage girl would probably care more about her relationship than the people surrounding it. How many friends have you lost to “love”?

Speaking of friends, Min has a few, but her closest friend is Al. They both share a love for old films, and Al is there for her, no matter what. As I’m sure you can guess, this side of the story is one of unrequited love. And of course as the reader and outsider in the situation, you can see plain as day that Al loves her, but of course Min cannot. This inevitably causes tension between Min and Al, and Min is left to deal with her situation mainly on her own.

Min’s mother is the only “authority” figure we truly meet outside of Ed’s sister, but it’s just once. Min mentions her mother often in passing, but never delves into specifics, just how “annoying” and “overbearing” she can be.  The brief interaction the reader witnesses with Min’s mother is about everyone’s favorite topic with their parents: SEX. It’s a brief, awkward exchange but it happens just the same.

It’s a story that will take you back to when the only relationship problems you really had to worry about were how you were going to get your parents to leave you and your significant other alone. Oh, how we all pine for the simpler times. And the actual reason why Ed and Min broke up is a real doozy. If you’re a fan of young adult fiction, I’d say it’s definitely worth reading.