Every Friday night, I take a walk to discuss the week with Benjamin Wallin, staff writer and film reviewer for Baruch College’s student-run newspaper, “The Ticker.” I made a resolution to read a hundred books during 2016 and he intended to watch at least 250 movies. He has watched 237 so far. He has already met his goal to read fifty books this year.
Amid discussing articles and classes, we decided to exchange books. I offered “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan (my second favorite novel) and “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald (my second favorite book that I’ve read this year). In return, Wallin gave me “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler, or as my fellow dedicated readers might know him, Lemony Snicket.
“Why We Broke Up” is an adorable book that takes the form of a letter delivered by high school junior and film lover Min Green to senior basketball team co-captain Ed Slaterton following their relationship and explaining at every step why they broke up. Rather than specific chapters, each section of the book begins with an illustration of something Min kept from their relationship, ranging from bottle caps to a trenchcoat to a recipe book.
She begins with the story of how they met when Ed crashed her friend’s “bitter sixteen” and proceeds to go over, in detail, every single date and all of her thoughts while referencing fictional vintage films and actors.
The style of the novel is uncanny. It really feels like it was written by a high school girl. Every movie and actor that Min referenced seemed so real that I found myself looking for these movies. The story is not meant to be surprising; it’s a breakup letter. Instead, it methodically follows a relationship honestly enough to be real. The story was well-paced and believable.
It was a reflection of early relationships. I found myself thinking back to the girls I dated in high school — insignificant relationships that at the time seemed paramount. I thought about how much I have grown since then and how little I knew of myself. I still found that tinge of regret, buried deep, that the relationship didn’t work out, but it was mixed with the lightness of relief that they hadn’t.
This novel was made even greater because everyone could relate to the feeling of young love. Rather than appraisals from authors and celebrities, the back cover hosts quotes about their first heartbreaks. To promote the book, Handler interviewed people in Grand Central Station about their experiences with breakups and exes. Handler and illustrator Maira Kalman also created the “Why We Broke Up Project” on Tumblr where people can submit their own breakup stories.
If you’ve experienced a relationship or the hope of one, a break up or the feelings that come with young romance, you will appreciate the sincerity of Handler’s writing. Beautifully illustrated and poetic, “Why We Broke Up” is a sweet story we can all appreciate.