I’ve noticed I go through reading phases. Last year I read several political biographies in a row. Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve been reading all the latest books about the techies who have revolutionized our world (i.e. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, and Steve Jobs). It’s clear that my brain would obviously need a break from reading about search algorithims and programming languages. Which would explain why I’ve now read several young adult novels in a row.** And I’ve become obsessed with Why We Broke Up. Now, I must warn you – this book made me mad. It dredged up the memory of every awful breakup I ever went through, and I found myself wanting to call certain people and let them know just what I thought of them. Luckily, common sense intervened. But for anyone who has gone through a bad breakup, you’ll understand that Daniel Handler gets it right. He truly captures the giddiness of young love and how that feeling makes the world seem bright with possibility. Handler also portrays the betrayal, grief, and terrible doubt one feels after a breakup. Nancy Novak, our Children’s Librarian, has been similarly enamored with this book, and I’ve included her review below.
**This is not to say that young adult novels are the cotton candy of the literary world. They can be full of substance and make one wrestle with some of the more weighty matters of one’s existence. I was just fairly certain I wouldn’t encounter pages and pages on how Google decides what ads to display with its search results!
Posted by Nancy Novak, Children’s Librarian:
I loved this book. If ever there was an accurate portrayal of the drama of high school relationships, with all of their facets, this is it. Handler’s got the whole thing down well, and treats us to these amazing “lists” of teenage angst and experience throughout the story. The art by Maira Kalman is exquisite. I think my only complaint would be that the book is HEAVY, given the thick, lacquered paper. This is necessary because of the artwork. So, I will endure weight for substance any time.
If I had owned the book I read, I would have been highlighting many insightful sentences. For example, “But you put one over on me, too, the other side of the napkin I discovered too late. Just like we discovered as the waitress plunked down the coffee and the bill and stalked off that there wasn’t any sugar at our table: when it was too late, Ed, to do any good.” For most of the novel, I really didn’t hate Ed. I found his character, as portrayed by Min, quite charming and sincere. But there’s the rub. It wasn’t sincere. It turned out to be typical jock, I am the master of the universe stuff. Practiced and refined over many so called “relationships”. Quite a cautionary tale for girls who swoon over such guys – do you really want to lose your virginity, and perhaps part of your soul, with someone who has an act like that?
Al, of course, is her real love, the guy she SHOULD grab and hold onto. I liked the way Handler delivered these smart, intelligent kids to us. There are so many in high school, and often they go unnoticed. They need to be celebrated and given their moments on the stage of life.
Teens ought to read this one, and then recommend it to their friends. I think it would make a good book to choose for a high school English class as it could spark a lot of interesting discussion.