Audiobook Review: Why We Broke Up

Image via Indie Bound

Rating: 5 out of 5

Well, I didn’t think that any book this year would be able to top David Levithan’s Every Day, but it turns out that Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman created an even better tale of teen romance!

Why We Broke Up (2011) is written in the form of a very long letter by Min (short for Minerva) Green, a teenage girl who has left her boyfriend Ed Slaterton. But instead of a typical break-up story, each chapter revolves around a particular item from their relationship. Min has accumulated various odds and ends–bottle caps, a movie ticket, an egg cuber–and now she is dumping the box of love trinkets on his doorstep just as she is dumping him.

One of the many cool things about this book is its creation story: An interview at the end of the audiobook explained that Handler (author of A Series of Unfortunate Events under the pen name Lemony Snicket) and Kalman (artist for books, magazines, and fashion designers) had worked together on a previous project called 13 Words when Kalman suggested a bunch of items that she wanted to paint. Handler then constructed the novel around the illustrations, rather than vice versa.

Not knowing this tidbit before buying the book, I regret not having a print version since I didn’t get to experience the magic of Kalman’s illustrations, a few of which have been included below:

Image via the Junior Library Guild and created by Maira Kalman

Image via RISD and created by Maira Kalman

Image via NYT and created by Maira Kalman

I was intrigued by this novel because I loved Handler’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and I had not yet read any books published under his real name. Disappointed after Meg Cabot’s Jinx, I hoped Why We Broke Up would better depict teenage struggles in life and love.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Handler does an excellent job getting inside the mind of a high school girl: Teenagers and adults alike can relate to Min’s body image issues, fights with her mother, and anxiety over her reputation after losing her virginity. Unlike many female protagonists, she’s multidimensional. Outspoken about her Jewish heritage and passion for classic cinema, she manages to juggle her boyfriend and friends with relative grace.

She also learns how difficult relationships are when she would rather relax in coffee shops than sit through Ed’s basketball practices; although many adults flourish in opposites-attract partnerships, it’s a monumental challenge in school when your cliques try to pull you two apart. I appreciated how Min still preserved her identity, even though she couldn’t preserve her relationship.

Of course, the reader quickly gets addicted to this story, as I found myself listening to chapter after chapter hoping to get more kernels of information on exactly “Why We Broke Up.” And although Min and Ed ended as quickly as they began (they didn’t even make it to their second month anniversary), there were plenty of ups and downs on their emotional rollercoaster.

So if you’re looking for a realistic portrayal of puppy love, regardless of your own age, you’ll greatly enjoy Why We Broke Up. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, so it’s no surprise to hear that its movie adaptation will be released next Valentine’s Day, starring “True Grit” actress Hailee Steinfeld (also portraying Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and Petra in “Ender’s Game,” both of which are in theaters this year!).

And the fun doesn’t stop there! (or as the infomercials say, “But wait! There’s more!”). If you’re a little bummed that you can’t fully relate to the break-up of Min and Ed, check out The Why We Broke Up Project Tumblr, where citizens and celebrities alike have revealed the details behind their relationship downfalls.

My favorite entry? David Levithan’s, if you can imagine!

“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.”

Levithan, I loved Every Day, but Handler just stole the spot for my favorite book of the year! However, with nine months left, who knows what could happen?

The Book is ALWAYS Better!

Cover of "The Scarlet Letter"

Sirius? How can I forgive you?

I’ll just let you know right now, I read The Huffington Post everyday. As an aspiring journalist, this embarrasses me, since HuffPost isn’t exactly the most credible, professional, or even copy-edited place on the web to get your news, but it updates constantly and satisfies my basic need to get the day’s headlines. That, and it has a “Books” section, which I link to frequently. So, if you’re annoyed by the reposting, too bad!

Yesterday, HuffPost released a list of “7 Worst Film Adaptations,” with videos for each entry. Here they are!

  1. The Scarlet Letter (1995) with Demi Moore and Gary Oldman
  2. Fever Pitch (2005) with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon
  3. The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) with Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana
  4. I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith
  5. Dune (1984) with Kyle MacLachlan
  6. The Cat in the Hat (2003) with Mike Myers and Dakota Fanning
  7. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) with Jim Carrey
          I’ve seen #1, 3, and 7, and I completely agree! I haven’t read The Time Traveler’s Wife, but the movie was depressing, confusing, and lacking chemistry. I don’t know how accurate it was, but the ending left me with that “Well, there’s a couple hours I’ll never get back” feeling.
          The Scarlet Letter, however, was so horrible you can’t help but crack up, which is why it’s mocked all the time (most recently in last year’s modern adaptation, Easy A, with the adorable Emma Stone). Hawthorne’s novel is one of my favorites: his writing is complex but beautiful, and the story was so moving. Let’s just hope Demi Moore in a bathtub was enough to stop him from rolling over in his grave!
          Last on the list, I read all of Lemony Snicket’s books, and loved their sinister, mysterious stories. I thought the movie’s casting was fine, but their attempt to combine the first three novels was the most unfortunate event of all, and I’m just glad they were smart enough not to make more sequels.
          I always take the side of the book, but I also look forward to their movie counterparts, with the hope that the magic of the words will be just as stellar on screen. And there are some great adaptations out there: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (except #3), Fight Club, The Godfather, The Princess Bride, among others.
          But there’s one that didn’t make the list which definitely should have: The Golden Compass (2007) with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. I wrote a scathing review on BridgeToTheStars.Net, which no longer exists on the site, but here were my main complaints:
  1. Hollywood’s cowardice in not addressing the religious themes. In case you didn’t know, the author Philip Pullman is an atheist–GET OVER IT! In his modern re-telling of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Pullman mocked the Catholic Church and its teachings on original sin and puberty. But since the producers were scared of losing profits and Kidman is Catholic, what fans got was a watered-down version of Pullman’s exquisite fantasy tale, which I think is so much worse than no movie at all.
  2. The director. Chris Weitz? Really??? The same guy who made American Pie??? For shame…
  3. Everything else that was left out. All the real violence of Iorek’s fight, the inaccuracies with the characters, and–of course–the ending. I won’t spoil it, but fans know exactly what I’m talking about!
          Maybe one day, someone will correct these massive wrongs and live up to Pullman’s best work. But until then, I’m going to return to pretending this abomination never happened.
          What other movie adaptations make you cringe? Any that surpass the books? Send me your rants!!!