What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this 2012 Printz Honor Book is about first love and a painful breakup. The protagonist does lose her virginity in a hotel room, where she spends the night with her boyfriend. There is swearing, drinking, heavy petting, and lots of coffee. This book is written by the same author who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events, but it's for mature teen readers who like romantic reads as well as clever wordplay.
What's the story?
When movie-obsessed Min meets basketball star Ed, they have a quick connection that doesn't make sense to either one's friends. And it isn't all about the physical stuff: He really gets her, helping her plan a party for an aging movie star and even fantastically re-creating an igloo from a movie they saw together with this movie star -- all out of eggs. Of course, there's plenty of drama on the way. But as she details each item she is returning to Ed now that they are breaking up, she writes to him the story behind these treasures. Through her flashbacks, readers understand what they saw in each other, why it could never work out, and that she will ultimately move on.
Is it any good?
From the same author who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events as Lemony Snicket comes this surprisingly moving tale of first love and painful breakup. It has Handler's trademark cleverness with quick dialogue and references throughout to outrageous, invented classic films, but it convincingly captures what it feels like to really, truly fall for someone -- and obsess until nothing else in your life matters -- and also what it feels like to lose that person.
Min isn't always the most likable person, and the box of treasures she is building to return to Ed seems a bit juvenile and overdramatic -- but it's authentic. She is, after all, a dramatic girl -- and she's aware she has her share of faults ("I sweat everywhere, my arms, the way I clumsy around dropping things, my average grades and stupid interests, bad breath, pants tight in back, my neck too long or something," she writes as part of a really long list of things she loathes about herself). And readers will appreciate that Handler makes them understand why she and Ed -- who are so obviously different from each other -- would work so hard to be together, even while readers know their romance is doomed. In the end, this is a good choice for Snicket fans now grown up, as well as other romantic readers who like a good cry. And Maira Kalman's clever illustrations add to the inventive storytelling. The American Library Association named Why We Broke Up a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book for excellence in literature for young adults.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about stories and movies in which opposites attract. Why is this such a popular trope? What do you think is the reason Min and Ed fall for each other -- even though their friends don't really get it? At your school, would an "arty" girl and a jock ever go out?
Also, Min and Ed have a few different discussions about him using the words "gay" and "fag" derisively, like to describe things her arty friends do, such as drink champagne. Is this something you hear in your school hallways or among your friends? Does it bother you?
If you read Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, do you see any similarities in Handler's writing here?