Monday, 10 September 2012

(Sort of) Review: Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler

*In the interest of full disclosure - I did not finish this book. I read the first 100 pages and it was such a huge slog that I didn't continue. As I didn't finish the novel I don't think it's fair to really call this as review because, who knows, maybe it really improved and picked up towards the end. Take what you will from this post but don't take it as a complete review as I didn't read the entire thing*

Published: August 6th 2012, Electric Monkey
Pages: 354 pages, ARC
Series/standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

My review: Oh, I was so disappointed by Why We Broke Up. Ever since I first read the synopsis on Goodreads I was desperate to read it. It sounded completely up my street, I love epistolary novels and the idea of including artwork in YA books is something I usually enjoy (like in Happyface, which is still one of my favourites). When I received a review copy from Electric Monkey I was so excited to get started on it but, unfortunately, it just wasn't for me.

Immediately I was struck by the writing style, which felt awkward and clunky. It seemed as though every word had been too carefully considered. The magic had been lost from the words and it felt overwritten, like the scriptwriters from Dawson's Creek had decided to write a YA novel ('I'm mad at the world, Joey, I'm a teenager').

I think one of the issues is that there's no tension, there are no real stakes here. We know Ed and Min have broken up, we know they're over, we know they're not going to get back together. Of course, I didn't read the whole book so I don't know what the ending is but I'm fairly sure it's going to include Min coming to terms with the break up, delivering one final blow and disappearing off into the sunset with a new guy who is much more her type... Am I right? Well, maybe not but that's the impression I got from the first 100 pages.

One thing I will say, though, is that it's definitely an interesting premise. The idea is great and I think it could have shone as a fantastic novel if the writing style had been more realistic. It just didn't believe in Min's character, I didn't believe she was a young girl. I was very aware that I was reading a novel, that I was reading a novel written by somebody who was trying to write in the style of a teenage girl and that is what made Why We Broke Up so difficult to enjoy.

I wanted to love this one, I really did. The idea is great, the artwork is lovely but I couldn't get into it. Every page was a slog so, sadly, I stopped reading after 100 pages.

First line: 'In a sec you'll hear a thunk.'

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 11/20 (D)


  1. Oh what a shame! I read this recently and really loved it but I've been hearing quite a few people say that they've had problems with this one.

    The ending isn't quite as you thought it would be, but close enough, I suppose.

  2. It's such a shame you didn't get through this. I know what you mean about Min, but I actually really enjoyed it.

  3. Ahh, sad you didn't like this as much as you wanted to! It's one of my favourite reads of 2012 so far, but I understand why you couldn't really get through it because I know other people felt the same.

  4. I thought there was a big divide over this one. From the comments I am correct lol
    You deserve to be commended for not slogging through a book you're not enjoying - WELL DONE

  5. I totally agree with it being a slog. But I reckon you finish it. The beauty is in the ending. After all the hassle the style of narration put you through, the end is the reward. =) still a fantastic book! It's a Michael Printz Awardee, did you know that?

  6. I agree on this one!I wondered if I'd manage to finish it and I did but didn't feel it really improved and it was really predictable.Several of my colleagues have read it and disliked it too so we're not alone!

  7. I have great respect for Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, for his children's literature. And I definitely have even more respect for him now. He was brave to try something different. And his dialogue was just so dead-on. I just wish that Min was more real to me as a character, or that maybe she became so wise a little later in life.


Thank you kindly for the comment, you sweet thing.