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Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler: Book Review

The overarching problem of this desperately quirky novel is that is can be summed up thusly: “you were an insanely narcissistic creep who treated me like dirt. That’s why we broke up.” Honey, walk the other way and stop navel-gazing. This boy was never worth your time in the first place.

In addition, because this book inspires me to rant, Handler has chosen to form this novel as though it is a letter Min writes to her ex, Ed Slaterton, to go with the box of things she’s been holding on to that remind her of their relationship. She’s giving him the box to let him know that she is definitively over him and the letter is to sew together the narrative of what these objects are–because there’s some obscure stuff in this box. And because these objects have to be imbued with significance, they can’t just pass into the narrative. It’s not enough for the bottle caps for the first beverages Min and Ed drink together to be in there. Ed has to open the bottles for them, inexplicably hand both of them to Min (why?), then when she’s cleaning up later her friend has to ask her what’s in her hand–oh, bottle caps? Hand those to me so I can throw them out. Then Min has to pretend to throw them out herself so she can secretly pocket them. Nothing can be subtle in this book, it has to beat you over the head.

Anyway, the reason I was bringing up the letter format is that the whole set-up is ridiculous. In the opening pages Min says she just got in the back of a car to deliver the box to Ed and is writing the letter using the box itself as a desk. So exactly how long is this car ride supposed to be? Because this isn’t a short book and Min goes into a ridiculous amount of detail for what should be a short sod-off letter. I mean, I summed the whole book up in a short paragraph so this amount of detail is really unnecessary anyway. And Min is spinning dialogue, detail, and exposition. She’s literally writing an entire novel and Handler wants you to believe she’s spontaneously writing a letter in the back of a truck on the way to deliver this package to her ex-boyfriend.

In case you can’t tell, this book really irritated me.

Grade: D-

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

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This entry was posted on August 20, 2016 by in Book Review and tagged .
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