Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler, Illustrated by Maira Kalman

 It's good to be back! Sorry I've been gone from the blogosphere for so long. I had family reunions to attend, moving plans to make, and lots of books to read before the summer was up- which means there will be a lot of reviews appearing soon!

WHY I PICKED IT UP: It was on a recommended list at my local library. Also, it's basically a picture book for teens. Definitely was excited to check out this unique format.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Min Green has decided it's time. Her recent breakup with basketball star Ed Slaterton still hurts, but she needs to take one crucial step in order to get over him: give him all his stuff back. Not just his possessions, but things that she's picked up along the way in their relationship (ticket stubs, notes, books, a rubber band, all of which are illustrated by Kalman). Using the various objects as landmarks in their relationship, Min writes a letter to Ed recounting their relationship from beginning to end, explaining to him in great detail all the little reasons - and the big ones - why they broke up.

THE POSITIVE: Because the entire book is a letter written to Ed, it is told in a combination of first and second person. That means nearly the entire thing is her voice, which Handler pulls off well. Guys can't always write girls well (especially from such an intimate POV), but he does it.

Also, can I just point out something mindblowing? This is Daniel Handler. This is the dude who wrote a long series (of Unfortunate Events) under the name Lemony Snicket. I am a huge fan of that series, but I didn't realize it was the same author until halfway through when I read the author's jacket blurb. It feels like a completely different author. COMPLETELY. (Except for one point where he wrote a fake newspaper article... I got a lot of Snicket vibes from that.) Really shows his talent as writer.

Note: Min Green does this thing a lot where she'll reference something (like the two things Ed pulls out of his pocket) and then it'll look like she's forgotten to explain it. Nope- just be patient. Some things sound weird at first, but she does explain everything.

THE NOT-SO-POSITIVE: OK. So, I mentioned it's a totally different style from many of Handler's other works. But before I realized it was him, I wondered if this was this author's debut novel. While a lot of the style is realistic and conversational, it's sometimes hard to follow because of the intensely long run-on sentences and the lack of commas. Many times, I had to reread a sentence in order to understand it. Making your readers jump through hoops is something you typically want to avoid unless there's a really great thing on the other side of that hoop, and my patience was tested a bit.

OVERALL RATING: Fun, charming, and worth a read. If nothing else, then for the style and cool artwork. It goes by pretty quickly, and Min is quirky enough that she stands out boldly among YA heroines. It's artfully woven together in terms of plot points, and this novel will not leave you dissatisfied upon its conclusion.

Agree? Disagree? Have you read other works by Handler? I'd love to hear what you thought of them- this is the first non-Snicket one I've picked up.

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