Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler: My Book Review and Reflection (Spoiler Alert)

I'm obviously not much of a book reader.  But my book worm little sister has eagerly suggested that I read Daniel Handler's book called "Why We Broke Up".

I'm obviously beyond that target reader of this book.  The pictures and the language indicates that it is for leisurely reading among young teenagers.  But, it involved a bit about sex too.

I begins with the main cast Min writing a letter to her ex Ed.  The writing style is quite unique because she repeatedly tells him the reasons why they broke up us the story unfolds.  Her letter which states "Ed. I'm writing this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. And the truth is that I goddamn loved you so much." is already a foreshadowing.  You already know from the start that she will end up with a heartbreak and that she really loved her ex.  But, the questions is how and why did they break up?

I've always believed that people enjoy reading stories that they could relate too.  Of course, they are the ones that move us the most and thus, they are more memorable than the rest.  I also think that you could  tell the personality, experiences and beliefs of a person based on their favorites, whether its music, books or movies.  So, this book is all about first love.  I'm sure it's a pretty common experience for most of us.  The casts are around the age of 15.  I must admit, I've had almost the same experience at that age too.

Everyone has their own interpretation so here's mine.  I've taken note of the time Min mentioned the reasons for their break up:
  • "You know I want to be a director, but you could never truly see the movies in my head and that, Ed, is why we broke up." - Min has a different world and dream from Ed.  And, even if Ed is for the moment excited to enter her world, in reality, they don't really belong together.
  • "I was a good guest, Ed, and you didn’t even say bitter birthday to your host and give a present, and that is why we broke up." - Min and Ed are opposites in terms of attitudes, personality and they also have different set of friends.
  • " I gave you an adventure, Ed, right in front of you but you never saw it until I showed you, and that’s why we broke up." - They see things in a different perspective.
  • "Up in smoke I wanted everything, up in smoke I wanted you, although in a movie that wouldn’t work, even, too many effects, too showy for how tiny and bad I felt.  Cut that fire from the film, no matter how much I watch it in dailies. But I want it anyway, Ed, I want what can’t possibly happen, and that is why we broke up." - Deep inside she was unhappy and uncontented but she tried to fool herself as she dreams and hopes for more by lighting each match.
  • "Undeveloped, the whole thing, tossed into a box before we really had a chance to know what we had, and that’s why we broke up." - Their adventure was fun and exciting at first but they couldn't continue to grow together and finish what they started.
  • "I'd ruin any day, all my days, for those long nights with you, and I did. But that's why right there it was doomed. We couldn't only have the magic nights buzzing through the wires.  We had to have the days, too, the bright impatient days spoiling everything with their unavoidable schedules, their mandatory times that don’t overlap, their loyal friends who don’t get along, the unforgiven travesties torn from the wall no matter what promises are uttered past midnight, and that’s why we broke up." - Although there were wonderful moments during their relationship which made her want to hold on, in reality it was also very destructive to both of them.
  • "We weren’t going to sneak off to the movies instead, just talk anywhere, someplace else. Not the co-captain, not that night, not with me the new girlfriend, and that’s why we broke up." - Min didn't have the same passion as Ed in terms of football as Ed didn't feel that same about Min's passion for movies.  
  • "Like fate, was the feeling I had as I stood beaming breathless in the shop with this in my hands. Now, of course I see it differently, that it was not fate but fatal, fatal and wrong that we read the recipe and got excited and I shared with you all my dreamy plans. Outside it cleared up, as sudden and magic as a vampiric Portuguese sunrise with plumed birds and harps on the sound track. It didn’t last, it wasn’t clear for much longer, and that’s why we broke up, but when I close this book to give it to you, I don’t think about that, just us holding the book in our hands to buy it and take it here with us, because damn it Ed, that’s not why we broke up. I love it, I miss it, I hate to give it back to you, this complicated thing, it’s why we stayed together." - This is the only quote in the book which she mentioned that "is" and  "is not" the reason for their break up.  She didn't exactly describe it as love because now that they've broken up, she's uncertain what it was.  It made her too excited, happy and and hopeful that she could not distinguish what is real.  Soon, the illusion faded and she got hurt.  But, she didn't want to remember the pains and instead she wanted a nice closure between them with the good memories and the feelings they had then which made them stay together in the first place. 
  • "I thought it was one thing but it was the other, it was zero zero zero alone on the bus, while you slept in the room I had to leave, and that’s why we broke up." - Min was lied to and driven away by Ed's sister and Ed has failed to comfort and accompany her.  
  • "Beautiful she was, beautiful in the rain and her clothing. The file clanked against me,my stupid idea nobody would have gotten had I ever done it. You even wouldn’t have gotten it, Ed, I thought, watching her go. It’s why we broke up,so here it is. Ed, how could you" - This is a literal clue in the story of why they broke up.
  •  "You took my hand and you said you’d take care, you said it, Ed, of everything. You said you’d already found an extraordinary place, and I believed you. I believed you because look at this water, bottled in a place that sounds made up, the odd icons on the label, the way it tasted like nothing, but some kind of better nothing. What does it mean? Where does something like this come from? How can you find it ever again, just what you wanted at just the right time? Never, probably. It’s empty and nothing now, I don’t even know why I kept it, and I’ll keep it no more. It’s why we broke up, Ed, a small thing that’s disappeared or maybe was never really in my hands in the first place" - Boys and their empty promises.  Sadly, I've had a lot of these too =(
  • “'I love you too,' I remember saying, so it must have been a reply, you must have said it first, but even now, looking at this shirt, I try not to think or picture anything at all. I wore this, Ed, is what I think, like shelter and skin, that night alone on the roof of the garage. The bed felt too empty to sleep, so I was out in the night lighting some of those matches, Mayakovsky’s Dream feeling decades ago, the tiny fires dying out in the wind as soon as they left my hands. Cold, for no reason. Hot, for no reason. Smiling, crying, nothing at all, this shirt my only company that night and so many nights after. I wore it, this careless thing you don’t even remember giving to me from your bag.It wasn’t a gift, this thing I’m returning. It was barely a gesture, almost forgotten already, this thing I wore like it was dear to me. And it was. No wonder we broke up." - Min was disappointed and regretting that she gave it all to Ed who probably doesn't or won't even realize it.
  • "Our sketches are messy, but Al and I can read it, can picture it moving forward. The NewYear will make me feel, I don’t know, like those huddled happys at the large wooden table, not my favorite movie but one that’s got something, according to me. You wouldn’t like it. Why we broke up is that you’ll never see it, never a picture like that. The tremble of the soup pots, that crazy bird that pecks at the seeds in the saucer, the way the love interest sneaks up on you, several scenes before you even know for sure he’s in the story. Shutting the box with a wooden shuffle, exhaling like a truck pulling to a stop, thunking it to you with a Desperada gesture. I’ll feel that way soon, any sec now, friends or loved or content or what not. I can see it. I can see it smiling. I’m telling you, Ed, I’m telling Al now, I have a feeling." - The future for Min after the break up seemed hopeful.  As one part of her life ends, another begins.  Although it is uncertain, she is moving towards her dream.  It is a dream that Ed would never want or understand.  It's also a hint that her close friend Al who is in the friendzone could move out of it...
I actually enjoyed the book because it reminds me how I was when I was a teenager.  As a young girl, being with someone who is different from me seemed exciting.  I was so happy every time he gave and took them as a romantic gesture and a proof of love when in fact it was a clear indication of incompatibility. As logically one can expect though, it wasn't long until he got tired of it and felt suffocated and everything went downhill from there.

Since the book was through Min's perspective, we could see how she was depicting Ed to be perfect when in reality he wasn't.  She was all-praise for Ed in terms of his popularity and equated herself lowly as compared to him.  And, she always says that Al is a good, good person but never considered him.  I see this as the common application of "people dating who they think they deserve".  The good and special Al seemed to be too good for Min so she goes for Ed who is a jerk.  Recently, I've just learned that the "people dating who they think they deserve" stupid and flawed.  Since what's perfect for one is different for another, then there's no proper gauge of what's too good or bad for us.  It all boils down to compatibility.  We shouldn't go into a relationship if we cannot accept the person entirely and hope or take on it as a challenge to make them compatible for us.  So basically, girls end up with jerks because they either learn this too late or it just so happens that it's usually the wrong guy who steps up first. 
It was also clear that her close friend Al, whom she never took notice of, loves her and even their friends could see it but she couldn't.  As I was reading their interaction, it made me curious why the two never actually tried it out when they get along so well.  I initially thought that Al was valuing their friendship which is what I have chosen if it were me too.  But, I was disappointed that it was all because Al realized his feelings too late so he actually gets what he deserves?!?  Because of that, he placed their friendship at risk and caused tension and awkwardness between them.  Had he confessed sooner, he could have spared Min from a bad relationship too.   How typical for someone as young as Min, Ed and Al to make mistakes those right?  But, in the end Min realized that perhaps it was meant to be.  Only upon going through that and ending it can she could move forward with her life and see things brighter than before.  It's cool that Al and her are still friends again but they will have to overcome obstacles still.

Overall, it's a recommended must-read book even for adult and young at heart.  Love the writing style, but not so much on the massive descriptions.