cover image Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up

Daniel Handler, illus. by Maira Kalman. Little, Brown, $17.99 (354p) ISBN 978-0

Handler and Kalman (13 Words) craft a book-length breakup letter from Min (short for Minerva) to her ex-boyfriend, Ed. Accusatory yet affectionate—directed at “you, Ed”—it accompanies a hefty box of souvenirs Min accumulated during the two-month romance. Between chapters, readers gaze at Kalman’s almost totemic still lifes of each nostalgic item, which range from handwritten notes (“I can’t stop thinking about you”) to secondhand-store finds and movie tickets. Min loves classic cinema, and Handler invents false film titles like “Greta of the Wild” that Min and her platonic pal Al name-drop like an “old married couple.” Proceeding chronologically, Min recounts her doomed affair with Ed, a basketball star who shrugs at movies and commits gaffe after embarrassing gaffe in front of Min’s friends. They can’t understand what she’s doing with him, but readers won’t have that problem—Handler shows exceptional skill at getting inside Min’s head and heart. Halfway through Min’s impassioned epistle, readers may realize that Ed, even if he cares, lacks the wherewithal to read it—lending real pathos to Min’s memorabilia and making her sorrow all the more palpable. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. Ages 15–up. (Dec.)■