Saturday, May 5, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman

Every last thing that reminds Min of her heartbreak is packed into a box and dumped onto her ex-boyfriend's doorstep. Min writes a long accompanying letter to Ed, documenting the many reasons they broke up. "You know I want to be a director, but you could never truly see the movies in my head and that, Ed, is why we broke up."

Daniel Handler has created a fabulous character in Min Green, a high school girl who loves old movies. She was never part of the "in" crowd and everyone knows she should never have been going out with the promiscuous co-captain of the basketball team. They connected at a bitter-sixteen birthday party for Min's best friend. Ed showed up uninvited, after a game. Min says, "Basketball is still incomprehensible to me, some shouty frantic bouncing thing in uniform, and although I didn't listen I hung on every word."

Min would not let Ed get away with excusing himself for making offensive remarks by saying "no offense" and she also would not let homophobic comments pass. When she brought him a cup of take-away coffee he told her he didn't like coffee. She urged him to try it her way, with extra cream and three sugars. He refused, insisting black was the only acceptable way, because "any other way is for girls and fags." Min tried to sort him out. "You. Must. Stop. With the fag stuff. Join the twenty-first century."

Also, Min did win Ed over to coffee. His response after a big, big sip: "Fucking delish. I don't care it's a faggy word, oops, sorry, no offense, sorry again. Delish! Criminy! This is like a cookie, it tastes like a cookie having sex with a doughnut." Min's response: "Wait till the caffeine hits."

Kalman's quirky art is given room to shine.
Later, Min writes about their encounter with an Italian liqueur, Pensieri: "I went and got it, no glasses, just twisted at the top until it was open and the strange rich smell was in my face, like wine but with something running through it, herbal or mineral, dazzling and weird. 'You first,' I said, and handed it over. You frowned into the bottle, then smiled at me and took a slow swig and immediately spat it out down your T-shirt. 'Criminy!' you shrieked. 'That is, what is that? It tastes like somebody killed a spicy fig. What's in that?' I was laughing too hard to answer."

I don't know if this drink even exists, but after reading that, I want some! Paintings by Maira Kalman are included throughout the book and her Pensieri looks similar to Chambord, which I love. (It's sort of like raspberry cough medicine.)

More of Kalman's great art in
Why I Broke Up
Ed tells Min he loves her, and "Every time you said it, you really said it. It wasn't like a sequel where Hollywood just lines up the same actors and hopes it works again. It was like a remake, with a new director and crew trying something else and starting from scratch." Until it wasn't... in a big way. And that is why they broke up.

I love, love, love this book. Captivating voice. Real emotion. Fabulous art. If you need any more encouragement, check out the Why We Broke Up Project online, where everyone is encouraged to share their sad, bitter, and funny stories.


alexis said...

I thought some parts were beautiful, but I also thought Ed was kind of a dick, so I wanted them to break up. Maybe I'm over identifying?

Lindy said...

Yeah, Min's friends were right about Ed and maybe that's why this book has such a feel-good vibe. It is a good example of a necessary break-up.

Claire G said...

You haven't done your usual 'readalikes'. I'm not complaining, but... "Will Grayson, Will Grayson"?

I want to read this book, regardless. Thank you.

Lindy said...

It's hard to think of something similar because of the illustrations, but if I consider only the stroppy female voice, I'd say John Green's The Fault in Our Stars is more similar than Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Another readalike is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.