“Why We Broke Up”, a Young Adult novel written by Daniele Handler whose previous works include The Series of Unfortunate Events (penned under the Pseudonym Lemony Snicket) and illustrated by Maira Kalman; tells the story of high school junior, Min Green (short for Minerva), and her first experience with love and heartbreak. Told through the style of a series of letters written to the boy she seems to be still in love with — star basketball player — Ed Slaterton. The novel begins with Min packing away all the remaining artefacts from her relationship with Ed; such as some cinema tickets and a Bottle Cap. But instead of ridding her of the memories of her time with him, these objects instead, inspire her to write a series of letters to him.
Something that stood out to me in particular, was Handler’s ability to — in spite of the fact that he is an adult male — capture the mentality and phycology of a teenage girl, who over the duration of the novel we see transform from a bright and confident person, obsessed with old movies and proud of her differences and into a girl who gradually becomes less confident and more self-compromising without even realising it. I felt that in doing this, Handler sent a great message to young girls: showing them that you don’t need to alter yourself to be liked, because Min was liked and appreciated more when she was herself than when she began to change in order to fit the image of what she felt her boyfriend, and the world he inhabited wanted her to be.
Additionally, in spite of the way Ed ends up treating Min, Handler writes his character in a very sympathetic way. He has a complicated home life, where he has to be more responsible than someone his age should be. And yet, due to the way Handler writes him — as a person seen through Min’s bias lens — he is presented to us as a regular American teenager, who like most young people, sometimes acts selfishly and craves the constant approval of others. I also felt that because Min is such a bias and unreliable narrator, she tends to look at the past with a nostalgic and romantic approach, and due to this, we as readers are deprived of the full scope of their relationship and eventual breakup. Perhaps if the story were told from Ed’s or even one of her friend’s points of view, we would see that their breakup was inevitable and the revelation of Ed’s betrayal might not have seemed so shocking and so out of the blue.
Written by, Maureen Tuyishime