Thursday, 29 May 2014

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up 
by Daniel Handler (illustrated by Maira Kalman)

Summary: I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
This book is an odd one. I went into it expecting to love it, then I sorted of hated it, but then when I finished the last page I realised that my final verdict was that I liked it. And I'm not quite sure when that shift happened, when the hate morphed into something else, I only know that it did.

I mean...the things I really didn't like are still true, it didn't cancel them out, but I guess it grew on me.

What I didn't like: the long, rambling, torturously boring stream of consciousness narration. It was so, so, so ridiculously dull at times that I wanted to give up on the book and hated myself for being too stubborn to actually do that (this is definitely just a taste thing though, I know some people will love it for the very reason I could've hated it).

I expected to love the writing, because it's Daniel Handler, and sure there were some sentences and rare paragraphs that were real gems in this book, but mostly the writing just irritated me. There were so many pages that you could literally skip completely and still know exactly what is going on in the story because it added nothing, other than boredom.

And Min...she was bloody irritating. Immature sometimes, pretentious kind of, too (I appreciate flawed characters, they're realistic, but it didn't make it any less annoying). And when it's revealed how short their relationship actually was before they started throwing around I Love You's like they were much eye rolling. That, and the writing style, had me thinking pretty early in the book that I really didn't give a damn why they broke up anymore.

When the story got more dialogue heavy, it was easier to like it. And if I read without stopping, it got easier to overlook the things that annoyed me. If I stopped though, they'd annoy me all over again when I picked the book back up and I'd have to get used to it again.

And I know this review is really negative, but that's because not only do I not know when hate morphed into like, I also don't know why. I don't know why I liked it. Not a clue. I just know that somewhere along the line I actually started enjoying the story to the point where my feelings at the end were more positive than negative.

Has to be noted: The book is gorgeous. Like, it's a really aesthetically pleasing book. Maira Kalman's art work is lovely and it's worth having on your shelf even just to look at.

My review has been almost as long-winded as Min's narration, so I'll end it with this: I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5.


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