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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up - I have a mediocre history with Daniel Handler’s books. I haven’t read much under his name, but I’ve read the Lemony Snicket stuff. And while I think the younger kids’ and picture books are hysterical, I was not a fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events. So I picked this one up with interest, as I was curious to read a straight Daniel Handler novel. Unfortunately, this did not leave an overwhelming impression on me.The “artsy one and the popular jock fall in love” concept has been done before, but the way Handler writes this book, I can’t tell if he’s playing it straight or if he’s lightly poking fun at the idea. The book does read like a satire of these kind of relationships in fiction and how it probably wouldn’t work out well in real life. Except that the plot keeps getting played straight. Ed and Min have very little chemistry and have no real reasons why they’re attracted to one another, aside from the fact that they’re both out their respective social groups. But as we read through, it’s very clear that Min is heartbroken over Ed, because…? Although their relationship is relatively brief, we never get the intimate details of their reasons and actions. For example, Ed and his friends mention that it’s a big deal that Ed spends money on Min, something that he hasn’t done for his previous girlfriends. But the only explanation that we the reader gets is “[Min’s] different.” Okay, so what makes her different? That she’s not in a defined “group?” The weird thing is that I can kind of see why we don’t get to know the intimate details. It’s written as a fuck-off letter from Min, so obviously she’s not going to rehash details that Ed might already know. But it just left me confused as to what was going on.There are plot threads that got dropped as soon as they’re mentioned and get picked up at random. Ed’s mother is sick and he spends a lot of time with his sister, but it’s never clear why or if it bothers him at all. Min’s best friend Al seems like a set-up for being her guy best friend, but of course we find out that he’s been in love with her for years. A driving plot point that repeatedly drops is Lottie Carson, a former film actress that may be living in Min’s town and is getting a surprise 89th birthday party. Except we never find out the truth and it gets dropped completely in the last twenty pages. (ETA: Apparently, I'm an idiot who missed a page dealing with this plot point.) Again, the plot reasons are understandable, but I felt cheated that a huge plot point never got resolved. And the reveal that Ed was cheating on Min with an ex-girlfriend really ticked me off as the ex seemed like a decent character and was very nice to Min, if a little blunt. Again, the problem is all of the above feels like it’s satirizing these ideas and tropes that do show up in a lot of YA romances, but it falls back into playing them straight almost automatically. There’s a great example of this during a scene where Min has to meet with some of Ed’s friends at a party. She automatically launches into a very pretentious introduction of “My name is Min, after the Roman goddess of wisdom,” and one bitchy drunk girl tells her “No one cares.” If that had been in another YA romance book, that would have been the cue to hate on the latter girl and praise Min for being different. But here, it does come off as that would be the real life reaction. And then the scene falls back into playing the idea straight. I can’t tell if Handler was reining himself in or if it IS supposed to be a critical look, and I’m just missing something.The writing is disjointed. It’s very well-written, but it doesn’t sound like a sixteen year-old girl was writing it. It feels like something Min wrote later in life after looking up Ed in old yearbooks or on Facebook, when she can be pithy and sarcastic. The artwork is excellent, but Handler takes the art and makes it redundant by explaining everything. There’s one really good piece with a torn condom package that just says a lot on its own, but then we get three sections dealing with Min’s deflowering. As I’ve been saying, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be seeing this as a straight YA book or a satire on the prevalent tropes, and the confusion killed the book for me. It’s got a nice gimmick, and good ideas, but Handler’s writing and tone does not fit the characters’ voices and falls short.