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*
Pages: 354 pages, ARC
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.'
Total: 11/20 (D)