The latest book by Daniel Handler is technically his first young adult novel (writing A Series of Unfortunate Events doesn’t count since he penned those under a pseudonym—Lemony Snicket). Unlike his Lemony Snicket books, Why We Broke Up has neither sharp wit nor nuanced characters, which makes for a pretty dull read. The only aspect that does resonate with this book is its examination of a breakup.
Min and Ed’s relationship went down the toilet; and, to deal with her sad feelings, Min sends a box of all the stuff that she accumulated during their one-month relationship along with a letter expressing her feelings to Ed’s doorstep. The objects in the box are beautifully illustrated by Maira Kalman and serve as chapter breaks, making them the only thing I found interesting about this book. The story feels wholly unoriginal: Min, a film geek, falls for jock star Ed even though her male bff is clearly in love with her and a better match.
We know from the beginning that they break up, and having to read through extensive chapters about their dates didn’t feel like a therapeutic exercise but more like a special kind of torture. I expected more from Handler (whose novel Adverbs I really liked—plus I’m a big Lemony Snicket fan), but this novel fell short in the YA spectrum. A more concise story might have had a bigger impact on me, but reliving failed teenage relationships is not something I find terribly interesting.