Why We Broke Up was not on my to-read list until it became a Printz Award honor book. But the contemporary young adult nature of it appealed to me after it found my radar. I hadn’t even heard of any of the Printz books that were honored this year. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on me getting more distant from the YA book scene, or if it’s a reflection on these books as surprise choices. But I’m disappointed I didn’t get into to the usual anticipatory hoopla I always create for myself before the announcement of the Printz Award nominees. Well, the Oscars are next week. Maybe I’ll pack in some nominees this week and finally download the ballots for Josh and me. Have a sour appletini or a lemon drop, or both. Get excited about the red carpet, and whatnot.
But back to the book. Here are my thoughts.
First: This is the heaviest book I own. It weighs, I’m guessing, the same as my social studies text did in 11th grade. Official weight: 3.6 pounds. The paper is thick and glossy, very cool to the touch. The illustrations bright, something I’m convinced would be lesser if viewed on an e-reader. (I’m still an e-reader virgin.)I loved carrying this book around.
Second: It took me about five minutes of relishing all nooks and crannies of the book before I remembered that Daniel Handler is Lemony Snicket. That was cool. He’s a versatile writer; this book felt very very YA in voice, language, and circumstance. Oh so different from those series of unfortunate events.
Third: Voice, I said was very very YA. It also broke every rule I’ve ever tried to get away with, which pissed me off. Jealousy. I want to write that repetitively with my “OKs” and my “verys” and my “ums” and my “‘I sighed’s” and I want to revel in writing paragraphs of descriptions that go on for 2+ pages and sentences that go on and on and on, commas strung from confession on top of confession to “I love yous” to repetitions of “that’s why we broke up.” I want to make up that many words and misuse just as many. I could NEVER get away with it. I’ve tried, like I said. So, congrats on that, Daniel Handler. Though honestly–and I don’t think this is just the jealousy talking–it did get a little exhausting. And it was clunky in a way that I had to repeat-read sentences and paragraphs. But I did manage to get past it. Why? Because I could relate to Min.
Fourth: Story. Poor Min. You know from the beginning that Min gets hurt. And even in her bitterness and anger you see her love lingers. She had hope and happiness so big she couldn’t see beyond it, and I really loved her for it. That blindness is so relate-able. Beyond that I loved the struggle of the popular jock dating the “different” girl because in this story it played the cliches in a way that weren’t tired or bratty or overused as they are in so many YA books. Min’s and Ed’s struggle felt just as new to me as it did for Min. God, poor Min, making every tiny piece of their relationship into the biggest somethings in her life. But, somehow through it all you know she’ll be okay. Because we all go through it. And we all somehow end up okay.