Like most people, I tend to pass on novels to friends once I have finished them, but this one has remained tucked away for over six years. ‘Why We Broke Up’ is dog-eared and tear stained to such an extent that I feel that it is far too precious to be flung into the danger-zone of ‘other people’s houses‘. However, this book deserves to be shared with the world as it is an absolute work of art which my words cannot do justice. I shall do my best to encapsulate its power in this article but I highly recommend you give it a read.
The novel is by Daniel Handler, who is recognised by his pen name Lemony Snicket for the wonderful collection ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’, ‘Basic Eight’ and more. This novel is filled to the brim with Handler’s wit but is definitely more adult than his previous works as it surrounds the topic of adolescent heartache with references to sex, alcohol and melancholy feelings; things which I feel should be avoided for a time in order to preserve the joy of youth.
With that intro over and done with, I’d like to introduce you to Minerva (Min) Green. A junior in high school with a love for film, often labelled as ‘arty’ and ‘quirky’, which she completely rejects. The book is essentially a letter which she is sending to her ex-boyfriend (apologies for the inevitable spoiler) alongside several items in a box which hold meaning from their time together. The ex in question is Ed Slaterton, the co-captain of the high school basketball team, I know that this may seem to be the recipe for a cliche romantic novel but believe me, it is so much more. Handler manages to illustrate how utterly engrossed Min becomes in Ed’s world and captures what it feels like to truly fall for someone.
Although the plot may seem familiar for those who have been in both short and long term relationships, the fragments of stories being broken up by chapters without any logical order highlights how everyone has a different thought process and experience in similar situations. The bitter and funny voice of Min Green is a joy to read as she confesses her anxieties and faults in an honest manner. I think many of us would appreciate the raw retelling of ‘first times’ and I applaud Handler for his great skill in speaking from the perspective of a young female, one which I believe is shared by John Green. Ed, Min and her close friend Al all try to enlighten one another on their passions, many of which are not successful, given that some personalities simply to not fit together.
The novel itself is filled with elegant one liners including these two favourites: ‘I stand entwined in fire on the inextinguishable bonfire of inconceivable love’ and ‘doomed like a wineglass knowing it’ll get dropped someday’. Such quotes are found throughout, deepening the drama with each turning page, ending with a hopeful tone, that we all invest, at one point, in the wrong person, but the future is near and you will see it ‘smiling’. Someone once described the book’s content as ‘borderline poetry’ and I think that describes it perfectly, as each and every page holds an all consuming power that will make you want to go back and read it again.
‘Why We Broke Up’ is a story which has stayed with me all these years and I cherish all that it has taught me. I have become more observant to the world around me, to the relationships within it, so that I may prioritise what is right and true and good. There is a quote which Min holds dear to her heart which I genuinely live by as it inspires me to act upon what my heart and mind desire and not what is expected of us.
‘You either have the feeling or you don’t’