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I Gave Her My Heart; She Gave Me This Pen

Forever Young Adult Presents: a review of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

I Gave Her My Heart; She Gave Me This Pen

BOOK REPORT for Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Cover Story: Legit
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 8 . . .and 0
Talky Talk: Distinctive and Wonderful
Bonus Factors: Illustrations, Duckie!, Egg Igloo
Relationship Status: We'll Never Break Up

Cover Story: Legit

I'm in Mississippi this week, visiting my family, and they're used to me reading books with, let us say, embarrassing covers. When I pulled this one out of my bag and flopped down on the couch next to a bowl of trash (it's a Southern thing), my aunt asked me if I was still reviewing "those teen books."

"Yeah," I replied, sort of tilting the book towards her in affirmation.

"So which one have you read recently?"

"Well . . . this one," I responded, again flipping the cover at her.

"But that's so . . . "she trailed off.

"It looks so . . . nice," supplied my mother.

I know. Trust me, if you pick up this book, you'll have people thinking you're reading the latest adult lit fic. Then again, you'll have to answer questions about the book from your family and friends, which is annoying because it'll keep you from reading this amazing book.

The Deal:

When Min and Ed get together, everyone is surprised, not least Ed and Min themselves. Min is - don't say it - arty, the kind of girl who loves to watch old movies and finds magic in everyday life and Ed is co-captain of the basketball team, sure of himself and his place in the world, a bit too cocky, a bit too slick.

But despite their differences and their friends' dislike of the relationship, Ed and Min get along mostly swimmingly. Until they break up.

This book chronicles their heady, six week relationship in a letter from Min to Ed, along with all the treasures and trinkets of their time together.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Oh, Min, GIRL. I feel ya. Even though I am probably more the Ed in any relationship (barring a few glaring differences), I definitely would have been your bestie in high school. You're passionate and have very little impulse for self-preservation; you'd probably roll your eyes anytime I wanted to watch the Vampire Diaries, but you'd hunt down and buy the most perfect present for my birthday and you'd always be willing to have adventures with me.

Plus, girl, you NEED me. Your other friends are great - and Al is obvs adorable - but they're all about "letting you make your own mistakes" and "staying out of it." I think that is bullshit. If you'd asked me my opinion about Ed when you started dating him, I'd have said, "GIRL HE IS GOING TO DESTROY YOU. RETREAT! RETREAT!!"

And, you know? While I'm not willing to extend Ed my BFF charm, and in fact sort of want to kick him in the teeth, I still feel for him. At the end of the day, he is stupid and self-destructive, but he is still charming, and little-boy-lost, and, I think, wants to be better than he is. I wouldn't mind hanging out with him at our 20 year reunion, just to see if he ever became the person he has the potential to be.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8 . . . and 0

It seems a bit funny to reward a relationship that is so clearly doomed such a high swoonworthy scale, but there you have it. Min and Ed's headlong rush into love is complete with all of the jittery tingles and shuffled-feet-declarations of attachment that I long for in new relationships. I felt, as they felt, that their relationship was shiny and new and special, even though I knew, as they didn't, that it was doomed to fail.

That said, let us be honest here. The relationship does fail, and fail spectacularly. By the time the writing was on the wall, my stomach was clenched in knots, fearing to learn the reason the pair broke up while trying to ignore the clanging warning bells which intoned that I knew exactly what was going on.

Talky Talk: Distinctive And Wonderful

This book is one long letter from Min to Ed, divided into stories based on the treasures she had saved from their relationship. Because Ed's side isn't represented, we see him as Min sees him, his faults and his good features alike. Min's voice is distinctive and real - the voice of a girl too smart for her own good but too naive to navigate the minefields of teenage boys.

But even though this is a sad tale of a love gone wrong, it's still funny as hell. The balance of the sad and heartbreaking and the lighthearted and comical makes a chiaroscuro of a book - both facets become deeper and more impactful.

"I'm with Jordan," Lauren said, taking half the stack. "I know better than to interfere with the sexual tension festival you and Min have going on this morning."

"Every morning," Jordan said.

"You think everything's sexual tension," I said to Lauren, "just because you were raised by Mr. and Mrs. Super-Christian. We Jews know that underlying tensions are always due to low blood sugar."

"Yeah, well, you killed my Savior," Lauren said, and Jordan saluted good-bye. "Don't let it happen again."

and

All gone, indelible but invisible, not quite everything but everything but. Mr Nelson said it went on my permanent record, fifteen minutes late on a test day, but that's gone too, along with my B- and the essay question I totally bluffed through, and gone is the reason I was late, how I ran to you and kissed your neck and pressed my hand against you, murmuring that it seemed like everything but felt pretty good to you. We didn't do a lot, as you promised. We did a little, and the little is gone, those twenty-whatnot minutes scurried away wherever the actors go when the movie's over and we're blinking at the lights of the exit signs, wherever the old loves go when they move away with their asshole dads or just look elsewhere when I walk by in the halls. And the feeling, the real perfect of that afternoon, that you were thinking about me, that you'd remembered this garden and waited outside geometry to get me to skip class and see what you knew I'd love - that feeling's gone forever too.

But these are here, Ed. Look at them, weighty now and heavy-making on the heart when I open the tin and rattle them in my hands sore from writing you. They've been made indelible, Ed, because everything else has vanished, so you take them now. Maybe if you're the one keeping them, I'll be the one feeling better.

Bonus Factor: Illustrations

So many YA books with hand-illustrations these days! I love it! This is the best YA trend yet!

Each of the trinkets that Min has kept - and is now returning to Ed - is hand-painted by Maira Kalman. They're witty and colorful and are a huge part of the story.

Bonus Factor: Duckie!

Al, Min's best friend, is quirky and supportive and the kind of guy that everyone looks at and feels a bit bad for, even though he's actually much happier than most of them. Plus, he's quite obviously in love with Min. JEEZ, Min. Buy a clue!

Bonus Factor: Egg Igloo

I can't really explain it- the egg igloo is something Min and Ed build together - but it perfectly encapsulates their relationship: Min with crazy ideas and Ed doing his best to apply logic into making them work. The two of them doing something ridiculous and just a bit wasteful, all in the name of fun. For me, the egg igloo is the type of thing you only do when you are young - like the sculpture of N*Sync made of steamed spinach that a friend and I made once - when your practical side hasn't been honed enough to automatically quash your desire for the absurd.

Casting Call:

Saoirse Ronan as Min

Min needs to be delicate-looking, with acore of hidden strength. I always think of Saoirse.

Tyler Posey as Ed

I never watched Teen Wolf, only read Meghan's hilarious recaps, but Tyler Posey looks like a douche who'd break your heart.

Relationship Status: We'll Never Break Up

Oh, Book, let's never break up. I know we haven't been together long, but I can already tell that it's true love. Maybe you think I'm rushing things, but I know my heart and I know what it wants. It wants you, all your bits; your clever illustrations and your lyrical run-on sentences and your beer bottle caps and your euphoria and your heartbreak and your everything but. And you know what, book? I'll even let you see other people, if you want. After all, who am I to dim your light? As long as you come home to me each night, so that we can go all the way, I'll be perfectly happy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Little, Brown. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (damnit!). Why We Broke Up is available in stores now!

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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