Why We Broke Up – Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman (2012, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Toronto)
Sigh…the pangs of adolescent love and all the angst and grief and elation that accompany it are all wrapped up in this novel-sized epistle. Min (short for Minerva) is the “different” girl, the “arty” girl into classic films and music. When she catches the eye of Ed, the co-captain of the high school basketball team and possessor of many ex-girlfriends, she dares to believe that they have a chance at love. Typical book and film fodder, you say…but wait. You may know Daniel Handler as his alter ego Lemony Snicket, and if you do, you have an inkling of what to expect. His clever manipulation of language is positively DREAMY.
But as soon as we stepped inside, we knew we should step out….It wasn’t just the tuxedos of the men whisking around, or the red napkins folded to look like flags with a little twist in the corner for a flagpole, piled on the corner table for replacements, flags on flags on flags on flags like some war was over and the surrender complete….And it wasn’t just us. It wasn’t just that we were high school, me a junior and you a senior, with our clothes all wrong for restaurants like this, too bright and too rumpled and too zippered and too stained and too slapdash and awkward and stretched and trendy and desperate and casual and unsure and braggy and sweaty and sporty and wrong.
Why We Broke Up is a beautiful, sad, and perfectly captured snapshot of first love and broken hearts, a delightful sentimental read even if you haven’t been a teenager in a great long while.