Hi and thank you for reading my twice yearly blog updates! Ugh, I really should be better at this. It’s kinda like, what I do, blog. So besides failing last year at posting anything close to a regular schedule I also made little progress on my Nerd Printz Challenge. I started off strong, working through what my library owned on audio but then slowed considerably.
But this year, this year will be…probably more of the same. I’m taking the microscopic momentum I had last year and plan to build on it. To that end 2013 is only 16 days old and I’ve already finished a Printz! YAY! On with the review!
Why We Broke Up, novel by Daniel Handler, art by Maria Kalman, 2012 Printz Honor.
- Story: Min Green writes a long letter explaining why she broke up with her ex-boyfriend Ed Slaterton. She uses the letter to explain each item in a box that she is returning to him that played some role or had significance in their brief relationship. Through the letter we see how popular jock Ed and “don’t say arty” Min first started dating, the brief and rocky course of their relationship before the aforementioned break-up. Usually I don’t enjoy books that present the end and then work backward to tell the story. I like reading to figure out the unknown. But in this case the structure works because although we know Min and Ed break up we don’t find out way until well into their story. I also love the art and how each object opens a new chapter in the story. The objects represent a different aspect of their relationship, good, bad, bittersweet and pointed.On a roll of undeveloped film, “But we never developed them. 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.”
- Voice: Nailed it. Told in Min’s voice, Handler does an amazing job of creating a unique voice. Yes, it sometimes veers into overly complex but always maintains a conversational and authentic voice. One of my favorite parts of the book.
- Style: Long form break-up letter with great art.
- Setting: An unnamed middle class town, an art house theater, a high school, two houses and a cemetery.
- Accuracy: Sure, although it kept bugging me that the movie and cultural references weren’t real. Like I get why they were invented, so we all have the same frame of reference (none) but at the beginning I thought, maybe they are. Then I thought, for sure, not they’re not. Then I got sad because I would love to see Greta in the Wild.
- Characters: Min – Maybe my one complaint of the book is how singularly we’re focused on Min. She’s a great character. Honest, vulnerable, naive, hopeful, lost, and yes, artistic. But by using the letter we only have Min’s perspective. I’m not sure I really need Ed’s but everything we learn about other characters, like her mom, her friends, Ed’s friends, are all from her perspective. Ed – Typical jock with hidden layers, like good math skills and ability to steal sugar from diners. I found Ed interesting but wish I could see him from another perspective from Min’s. We get some from his sister but not enough at times. Al – Min’s best friend. Joan – Ed’s sister. Annette, Jillian – Ed’s ex-girlfriends. Jordan, Lauren – Min’s friends.
- Themes: Love, Relationships, Friendship, Heartbreak, Honesty.
- Illustrations/Design: Incredible. I’ve already mentioned the art by Maria Kalman as amazing and tied very well with the story. The cover and end papers are also art by Kalman and set the story very well. The book is printed on heavy-weight, high quality paper which is rare in YA books but was necessary to showcase the illustrations. And the author blurbs on the back are stories of their own break-ups like David Levithan’s “The boy I loved didn’t know I existed. Then again, he was obsessed with Camus, so he didn’t know if any of us existed.” Very nice touch.
Thoughts: On the surface this book is in no way my cup of tea. Break-up story, told in flashback. But with incredible writing, sly humor and amazing honestly, I found myself liking it more and more. Not sure if this it hits all my buttons to be “the bestest book ever!” but it is a great read and I’m glad I finally got around to it.
Four out of Five Printzmobiles
And in other good news I’m re-reading Looking For Alaska for a book group so I’ll have my first re-read post going up. It’s been about six years since I’ve read it. Hope I still love it since I go on and on about it being John Green’s best.