Monday, March 26, 2012

Why We Broke Up

We all have those things that come out of nowhere and affect us deeply: songs, movies, books, even people. When it happens, it's sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful, and often unnerving, but it's almost always life changing.

I am always reading something, and especially since moving to New York, it seems I'm reading everywhere: on the train, in the park, at work, at home, and everywhere in between. For the past couple of days, I've been reading this:

I'm not sure if I can explain how much this beautifully simple, illustrated young adult novel affected me, but I wanted to write about it here and give it a shot. This book has been given a mix of reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, and I suppose many of those giving it negative reviews make valid points. I'm not even here to offer a five star review (although if forced to assign a personal star count to it, I'm not sure I could in good consciousness give it any less), I'd just like to discuss my reading a little.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (perhaps better known as Lemony Snicket), is composed of Min's, a high school girl's, final letter to her ex-boyfriend, Ed, documenting the reasons they broke up as she gives him back the most meaningful keepsakes from their short relationship. Each section is exquisitely illustrated by Maira Kalman, adding further weight and beauty to each otherwise ordinary item Min returns. Really, that's the story in it's entirety. There isn't much else to say about the plot; no completely unforeseen element of the story arises in chapter seventeen, no major unexpected climax occurs in the last few pages. Nevertheless, I was heartbroken from the first moment the characters met. No, this would not, could not, be one of those books that defied expectations and allowed its title to be untrue. I loved this book. Loved it from page five (loved it from the cover, but never judge a...). So this could not be one of those books. It would stay realistic, heart wrenching, true, because the best books mirror real life. It was my story, Min's and Ed's, in so many ways. Their story was "different," as Ed so often told her it was. But it was the same, as all of our love stories are, though we would never admit it.

There isn't much more I can say about this book. I was moved, am moved, by it, in a strange, completely personal way that I haven't been by many other books lately. I have trouble boldly stating that the writing was a ten, because I was never focused on the writing. I didn't need to be, and maybe that's how I know it was wonderful. I can tell you that the illustrations were enough to pull me away from the plot at times, an impressive feat. The pages are glossy...yep, that's about my only complaint.

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