Why We Broke Up Book Poster Image

Why We Broke Up



Moving, inventive story of first love and painful breakup.

What parents need to know

Educational value

A good vocabulary builder, plus Min challenges Ed, introducing him to arty movies and questioning his offensive language choices.

Positive messages

There's a subtle message here about how possible it is to move on after a heartbreak -- painful, but possible. Especially when you have good friends by your side.

Positive role models

Min is a smart girl who's willing to say what she thinks. Even Ed, who can be more of a stereotypical jock, is thoughtful about doing things that she will love, like going to movies she likes and helping her build an igloo out of eggs. He does, ultimately, let her down in a big way, but she is not wrong about what she sees in him. And at the end Min is strong enough to move on. She also has friends that support her, even when it's hard to.

Not applicable

Min and Ed have sex in a hotel room, and she lies to her mother about where she is that night. Two of the book's illustrations are of opened condom wrappers. There is also a lot of making out and several heavy petting scenes, and references to Ed's sexual history.


There are plenty of swear words, including "f--k." Also, Min chides Ed over his derisive use of the words "gay" and "fag."


Ed and Min go shopping for items several times in the book, though they don't shop at any traditional stores.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of high school parties and mentions of coaches that look the other way at teen drinking. Some characters drink to the point of vomiting. There's also lots and lots and lots of coffee drinking.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • 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? 

Book details

Author:Daniel Handler
Illustrator:Maira Kalman
Topics:High school
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:December 27, 2011
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):15

This review of Why We Broke Up was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old June 20, 2012

Wonderful book, but not for younger readers

This book was a great read. I could not put it down from start to finish, but even though it is an awesome book, I wouldn't read it if I was under 11 or 12 years old. I read this book when I was 11, and my mom and dad had no clue what it was about. By reading the back, you think that this is just a book of letters to a girl's boyfriend, well, in one sense, you were right, in another, you were not. I read Why We Broke Up eagerly. Most of the stuff in the book went right over my head. It wasn't until I was halfway through the book that I found out what sex really was. I used to think that people just lay in bed kissing, and then, WHALA a baby appeared. Haha, boy was I wrong. Even though this book doesn't say "and then I had sex", it gives a pretty good hint, and it describes it too. This book also deals with cheating, break-ups, and alcohol. If you are a parent reading this review, If I were you, read the book first if your child is under the age of 12. You don't have to talk to them about it, just read it to see how it is for your child. if they are more mature, go ahead, let them read it, they'll love it. Overall, I loved this book and i would highly recommend it.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bySexy senorita May 27, 2012

Why we broke up :)

Its a great read and I gave it to my cousin who is 12 and she LOVED it! The sex scenes arent really that graphic so it fine to read :D
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written bybeatricethebaticeer March 12, 2012

Clever and true to life.

Daniel Handler's first YA novel succeeds with flying colors. (Nearly literally in the case of the wonderful illustrations.) Min's voice feels true, and so does the way she constructs her life around her in accordance with her beloved movies. Some passages in this book are absolutely wrenching to read, but it has a hopeful end.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?