Handler, D. & Kalman, M. (2011). Why we broke up. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Kindle.
Min is an atypical high school girl, she likes old movies and is solidly grouped in her own circle of quirky friends. When she starts dating the co-captain of the basketball team, things begin to change, for her and those closest to her. Why We Broke Up is Min’s letter to her beau explaining all the reasons why, though it may have seemed so right at the time, they broke up.
At a party one night Minerva, Min, Green watches Ed Slaterton and his basketball teammate drink beer in her best friend’s backyard. She feels drawn to him, though she can’t exactly explain why. Eventually she meets him for a date at her favorite second run movie house and their romance blossoms. The story is told in reverse though, so even as Min recaps in painful detail the highs and lows of their chance meeting and first date, you already know that she’s doing so to explain why she and Slaterton broke up.
The story continues with Min explaining the backstory surrounding each souvenir that she returns to him. The toy truck from the big jock party, the stolen sugar, the post card from the movie house. All are accompanied with their own heart wrenching tale and the reminder of why they broke up.
Min’s character is charming. She’s a punky kind of indie kid who is not into typical highschool bs. She has a passion for classic and cult films, loves coffee and seeks out the unusual. Plus, even though she’s totally oblivious to it, her supes adorbs best friend has a monster crush on her. That she falls for the dopey co-capitan of the basket-ball team seems completely out of character. All of her friends try and ask her what’s up with the new boyfriend, but she stone walls them. She sends up MAJOR warning signs, withdrawing from her old group and solidly encasing herself at the side of her jock boyfriend. Her character is so typical of a fictitious high school girl, it’s almost insulting. Another book about a girl who is so in love with her boyfriend that she totally loses sight of what makes her special is exactly what the world DOES not need. So yeah, she shows an awful lot of personal understanding in recounting the whole awful tale back to the boyfriend, apparently he’s so stupid he can’t figure it out for himself, but it doesn’t change the fact that Handler wrote a book about a girl who lost herself in love and got burned. She went against her own belief system multiple times, betrayed herself, in the long run was seriously burned by the dork who said he loved her so much. While this book burns with a heat very realistic to young romance, the story isn’t challenging to any major stereotypes. Of course the indie-kid and the jock can’t date. Of course two teenagers have a passionate love affair that they lose themselves in. Of course the jock is sexually promiscuous. It’s a fun book, with great illustrations, but there’s no piss or vinegar in it, all it does is cement the same old stereotypes and enforce the same old boring gender roles.
David Handler was born in San Francisco in 1970. He is most well known for his series of children’s books penned under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket. He’s also written a number of picture books, one of which was adapted into a play (The Composer is Dead), and adult novels. His first novel, The Basic Eight, was published in 1999 and Why We Broke Up published in 2011 is is most recent work.
Young Adult Fiction, High School, Romance.
Supports the California Department of Education reading curriculum for grades 9 and 10 goals:
3.6 Analyze and trace an author’s development of time and sequence, including the use of complex literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashbacks).
Supports the California Department of Education reading curriculum for grades 11 and 12 goals:
2.2 Analyze the way in which clarity of meaning is affected by the patterns of organization, hierarchical structures, repetition of the main ideas, syntax, and word choice in the text.
This books plays a lot with stereotypes. What are some of the stereotypical ways in which the characters act? What is unexpected?
Reading Level/Interest Age
This book touches on sensitive topics like sex and teenage drinking. This is not at all new and many of the books in this collection include such topics. The protagonist rarely engages in drinking herself, indeed she comments that she “hates beer” on more than one occasion. The sex is not described in detail, and is a by product of the love that the main character and her beau have for one another, not a byproduct of some bacchanalian drinking-spree. This book clearly supports the department of education’s reading curriculum and the library has a strong policy of supporting every user’s right to read. We do not support censorship and operate under the guidelines developed by the ALA Library Bill of Rights.
Reason for inclusion
Daniel Handler is a seminal author of many well loved stories. Including this novel adds a popular title and author to the collection.
Lemony Snicket. (2012). In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1000143627&v=2.1&u=csusj&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w