Why We Broke Up

We broke up because he left the inner layer of his camouflage coat in my hall closet and I don’t shoot animals, or hook them. 

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (art by Maira Kalman) is one of my new favorite young adult books.  I’m really picky when it comes to young adult books, probably much more picky than I am with adult books which means on a scale from one to ten – I am a giant horned cactus of picky.

Note by Maira Kalman

Anyway, Why We Broke Up is the perfect, perfect, perfect young adult relationship book.  Did I say perfect?  It’s unbelievable.  I felt like I was in high school all over again and nearly fainting when a guy wrote on a piece of notebook paper “I can’t stop thinking about you.” Granted, I never used my locker so there wasn’t any ruled paper notes slotted into the blue metal carriage, but I was passed hallway notes and had a fine time using gel pens to decorate the top of my hand with “I love Johnny” or “I love Justin.”

Unfortunately, all the guys I dated in high school had simple names like John, Justin, Jonathan, Brandon.  And usually these names also have some sort of biblical reference because I’m from the Carolina’s where everyone “honks ’cause they love Jesus.” Keep in mind, this comes from the girl who wants to name her first child Lion.

Min has the most spot-on teenage girl voice.   She slices through friendships to be with Ed Slaterton (the boy with the popular jock name) and refuses to listen to any of her friends when Ed makes obvious errors in judgment.  He’s the quintessential high school sweet talker, the boy who’s hair actually waves in the hallway (and you thought only girls had hair flips).  In my high school, all these boys had superhero names like Starbuck, and Donnellen.  Honestly, my tenth grade year, on AOL instant messenger, I tried to get Starbuck to like me by making him guess who I was and telling him my hair was green.  I was a swimmer so I thought I was being really witty about it all, “yea, you know, green hair, stained by chlorine, I’m such a dark horse.”   Drama class with him fourth period was never the same.  Needless to say I’m awkward and never had a break-up story in that one because I never had a start-up story.

Sigh. Why was I born such a word dork.

I loved this story because it had everything girls do in high school to keep boys.  Let’s make a list, shall we?

  1. Girls share their fondest obsessions.  For me, listening to Brandy every day while staring at the disco light on my ceiling and splaying my hair out on the floor like a mermaid.  For Min, old movies and adventures following possible old movie stars.
  2. Girls give up their friends that are clearly hopelessly in love with them.  For me, Edge who took me to every dance after the boy I was dating got his truck stuck in the mud….again.  For Min, it’s Al who is clearly her perfect counterpart, but stands by with “no opinion” while she swoons over the basketball captain.
  3. Girls start to do things they normally wouldn’t. For Min, sit after school at basketball practice and, start drinking beer because “she’ll want to be drunk for this.”  For me, driving to Greensboro frequently in hopes my mom wouldn’t find out even though she looked at my cell phone log and discovered I was calling from random area codes.
  4. Girls give themselves up.  (We unhinge).

I could think of way more, but a list only works for so long.  In high school, I was exactly what my nephew calls me, a hot mess.  I wore 80s outfits every other day, spotted high heels, neon colors, refused to let my hair curl and made my mother straighten it every morning while I sat on the toilet watching it burn in the mirror.  I wanted one boy who was far away and gave me promise rings, and I wanted the five others who waited in line because I was “interesting.”  That’s certainly a compliment, I think.  I always wanted to be the interesting one, the unattainable, so I always dated boys far away who were practically useless and used me just like I used them, fillers.

There are good ones though, my senior year I dated a boy who brought me flowers on mornings for no occasion, wrote me notes and signed them “superman” and paid for everything.  There are winners, they are few and far between though.  Thus why more girls should watch teen mom and not hook into this.  I’m sure I’ll tell my daughter a thousand times not to date forever in high school and she’ll be committed by the second week of ninth grade.  Dear lord.

Art by Maira Kalman

Anyway, enough of my story.  Why We Broke Up is the story of why Min and Ed break-up.  My favorite part is that every image in the book is a piece of the break-up box.  Now boys, I know this is new to you, but I dare you – please take a peak through a closet you don’t usually use in the house you share with your wife or girlfriend and you might find their break-up box.  A break-up box is all the mementos, photos, movie tickets, prom corsages, scrawled notes, and letter jackets that were ever given.  If your girlfriend/wife is smart she would have burned that box in a trash can fire a long time ago while she got heated and bitter over what an a-hole that last guy was.  If she decided she wanted to show her daughters these photos later, then she’s more like me, and we’re sad together over all those nights we listened to Brandy and cried.  Don’t worry, “No Scrubs” came soon after and we reminded ourselves what suckers we had dated.

Art by Maira Kalman

The break-up box is a classic tool and Min decides to give it back to Ed with all of their love tokens.  Now that I think about it, it actually makes her look even more sad because she saved all the tissues he blew his nose in, and a piece of pepperoni from their shared pizza that dribbled from his lip and fell on the floor (no, not really, I made that all up, but she saved some odd little trinkets of their romance).

I guess I just loved this book because I saw myself in it – like all good books.  I was waiting for the clutch moment at the end that I knew was coming, I was suspicious the whole time, but refused to believe Ed would do such a despicable thing.  Even though, I was in love with Ed too, he really seemed to want to give Min everything and fix everything and make her whole.  It’s always the ones that want, want, want to and don’t need to, that are the culprits.

Read this book.  I’m telling you right now, I’ve told you this whole blog . Read this book, go into your closet and crack the plastic lid of your break-up box.  Pull out those glued together pictures from the plastic sleeve of your binder and the quotes about love that you wrote under each one.  Look him up on facebook, see his new baby’s Charlie Brown head.  Laugh at the headband they chose to make it look smaller.  Listen to some Taylor Swift.  Take a permanent marker to one of his eyes, make him a pirate.  Get all young adult on everyone’s butt.  Open the box, Pandora, Open the book.

Warning: Min talks in only run-on sentences and Ed talks in only fragments.  If you read this blog, and find it coherent, you probably don’t mind either of those things.

Here are some Break-Up Stories from The Why We Broke Up Project.

Here’s the quote I scribbled in my journal:

“In the bathroom mirror there was even a smudge of dirt on my neck, and I wiped it off in a hurried flush.  The cheap paper towel so rough against my skin that I looked for a scrape in my reflection and then, meeting my own eyes, stood for a sec and tried to figure, like all girls in all mirrors everywhere, the difference between lover and slut” (Handler, 162).

32 thoughts on “Why We Broke Up

  1. Brianna Soloski says:

    I don’t have a break up box. Am I weird? Also, Brian Selznick is gay? WTF! Also, Daniel Handler is Lemony Snicket, right? I definitely need to read this book.

    • Cassie says:

      Totally not weird – more like awesome and not overly sentimental. I keep everything so that’s why I had no choice really.

      Haha, apparently Selznick is gay! WHO KNEW! Google him and see if he’s written any articles or if he has a cute boyfriend and a dog.

      Yes, yes, Lemony Snicket – amazing. Read it! Read it! Read it! Let me know what you think as usual!!

      • Brianna Soloski says:

        LOL. I’m definitely not over sentimental. It reminds me of that episode of Gilmore Girls when Rory and Dean break up and she asks Lorelei to throw all the stuff out, but Lorelei hides it in the closet instead. (I feel like you’re a Gilmore Girls fan so you’ll know what I’m talking about).

      • Cassie says:

        Um, you are RIGHT, sister! I love some Gossip Girl. It’s so witty, so fresh, so right in all the ways I want it. I have every season – we should have a viewing party. I know exactly what episode you’re talking about and it’s funny how that perfectly describes both Lorelei and Rory to a tee. Haha. LOVE IT. You have me pinned. : )

      • Brianna Soloski says:

        I know, right? I just wish the series finale had been better. It was, in my opinion, the worst series finale ever, second only to Will & Grace.

      • Cassie says:

        He is perfectly adorable with his hipster glasses. I google imaged him because I love how dapper he looks in a suit. I wonder what his boyfriend does. He has pretty sweet clear hipster glasses in one of these photos.

      • Brianna Soloski says:

        I am a sucker for hipster men. Ira Glass, Jonathan Safran Foer. If Ira Glass weren’t old enough to be my father and Jonathan Safran Foer wasn’t married…

      • Cassie says:

        Haha I live his writing and Nicole Krauss his wife. I’m convinced they married because they write so much like one another. You can definitely tell they bounced ideas around their living room.

    • Cassie says:

      Thank you dear. Seriously, it’s so true – you can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em. BAH. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. : )

  2. Monika Rostkowski says:

    Your post is beautiful! It’s very nicely written and visually beautiful. I actually read this book, and it brought back like waves of feelings from high school. First break up, but especially the first time falling in love. Although its not my favorite book I think it can be appreciated more from people in their 20s.

    • Cassie says:

      Definitely the first time falling in love – you are so right. I did that far too many times in high school though. I’m in my twenties so I definitely connected so close.

  3. di @ life of di. says:

    I am so glad that you reviewed this book :) I got it from the library about month ago and started reading it but got too caught up with finals to finish (and I had to return it.) I wasn’t sure if I’d rent it again but it looks like I will be doing so :)

    • Cassie says:

      Oh my gosh – go back and get it. I waited on the list forever for this book, it seems everyone is reading it after it won a few awards. I definitely understand about the finals though – I can’t do anything during finals, I’m just a big mess.

    • Cassie says:

      She’s wonderful. I found her website yesterday and a few exhibitions after reading Why We Broke Up and she’s unbelievable. I have The New Yorker’s that are hers and I had no idea they were her, but when I saw them again I was like OH DUH. You should totally read it – you will love it.

  4. angela says:

    what a fun post & interesting book. I don’t read much YA, but was rather impressed by John Green’s latest…Fault in our stars?? (can’t recall title) Wish to read Will Grayson/Will Grayson someday ~

    • Cassie says:

      I’ve been meaning to read that because everyone gushed over it. Plus, he’s wonderful on twitter. I really like him as a personable author. I might have to read that one. You should read this one it will only take you an hour. The pictures make it fly by.


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