Why We Broke Up

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Why We Broke Up Book Poster Image
Moving, inventive story of first love and painful breakup.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byPERTH MUM July 4, 2013


Inappropriate. Musings of underage teenager sex. Frequent swearing & underage drinking.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySomeoneyoudontk... August 28, 2018

It was great!

I read it and I loved it! The sex scenes are not that graphic. There is only one sex scene anyways. I think It was a good book, there were a few role models too... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGrace4455 December 5, 2016

Good Romance. Mature Teens

Most teens will be able handle this novel.

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love love stories

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