I love when a book is almost about nothing, but then is really about everything that is going on in my life. And I really love when the character could almost be me (except that they are usually better looking and have special powers). There is something so reassuring when I see a piece of myself right there on the page and it makes me laugh or cry or remember.
As an Assistant Category Manager for Kids Books I wind up reading everything from lift-the-flap Elmo books to the latest from Cassandra Clare, often well ahead of the public. (Yes, I DO have a super fun job.) Obviously this means I’ve read loads of teen books. And this year I’ve encountered a few that were about nothing and everything and let me fly my angst flag. (That flag, btw, has a big unicorn on it. Wearing an eye patch. He’s very emo.) Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley and What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen were two of those glorious books. I also read Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (I know! How could I have waited so long to read this?), which is coming out as a movie in 2012 with Emma Watson. All three books spoke to me and reminded me that I’m not an island. Other people out there understand what it’s like to feel lonely, sad, misunderstood, and angry.
But the book that spoke to me the most wasn’t any of the above. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of the deliciously angsty Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) with fabulous art by Maira Kalman. Kalman’s bold art has been seen in many books and magazines and she has worked with Handler before on the odd and beautiful picture book 13 Words. These two kindred artists got together again and really made my day.
Min Green is our heroine. And a hero she certainly is dealing with a bad breakup like a champion. Min has left a box on Ed Slaterton’s doorstep. In that box are all the mementos from their relationship. And a letter. A letter explaining what each item meant to her and how Ed ruined everything.
Why We Broke Up seems like such a basic concept. And it seems like not much is happening in the book. But really it’s about everything. It’s about falling in love and seeing only the most amazingly great parts of a person. It’s about realizations and anger and hurt. It’s about friends and laughter and maybe, a little bit, about revenge. Why We Broke Up is about all the things that go on in your mind and your heart while the world continues to spin around you.
It’s perfectly angsty. And honest and smart. With a big dash of humour.
If you feel like sharing your own horrible break up stories, be sure to check out the Why We Broke Up Project. I’m not telling which one of those is mine…
You can also check out a hilarious video of Daniel Handler talking break ups: