Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Teaser: Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman. Little, Brown. 2012. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

I haven’t done a teaser in ages! This is basically me “teasing” you with a book I read, loved, but don’t want to review in full (yet!) because the publication date is months away.

Here’s my tease: I was excited about how much this book is not like the Lemony Snicket books. It’s totally different, it’s totally wonderful, and all I can say is┬áHandler is a darn fine writer.

This is the story of Min and Ed. This is the story of why Min and Ed broke up. This is Min’s story, told in a letter, one long, glorious, honest, letter to Ed about how they got together, and fell in love, despite (or, maybe, because of) being so different.

To understand Min, the first thing you have to know — well, the second, after knowing she has written a book-length letter to Ed — is that she took the box (the box with all the things from when they were together, bottle caps and posters) and put it on Ed’s doorstep along with the letter. So she’s the type to keep those things; and the type to return them; and the type to explain, in a letter, what they meant to her.

My final tease is that even though it is Min’s story, we also see Ed clearly, the good and bad, just as we see the good and bad in Min even though she is the narrator.

Closer to the publication date I’ll do a longer, more detailed review!

Edited to add:A question of design has been asked by Brian Kenney: “what did you think of the art work?” First, let me just say that this is a beautifully designed book. The paper is a high quality gloss, like you’d see and feel in a picture book. It makes the book heavier than a typical book. The cover and back cover give you a feel for Kalman’s style (also present in Handler and Kalman’s prior collaboration, 13 Words). The final version of the book will have full color artwork at the start of each chapter, illustrating the item that Min is returning. The ARC does not have that full color artwork; it has some black and white art, and some placeholders (i.e., “Full-color art to come: toy truck“). With my advance review copy, I got a packet of postcards which had some of the full color artwork that will appear in the final book. It’s not just the color that has been added, it’s also details. For example, the box that holds the items returned to Ed is a box that says “fragile” on it in the book. The box on the postcard has “you either have the feeling or you don’t” written on the upper left corner. However, the next illustration in the book does have that additional wording.

So, that’s the background. The advance reading copy does not give the full visual experience that the book will have. On a personal level, I liked the art; I liked that it made the experience of reading Min’s letter that much more real, by being able to see what it is she’s returning to Ed. I liked the full, rich color of the illustrations.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. If you haven’t read Handler’s terrific YA novel, way back before Lemony Snicket, titled THE BASIC EIGHT, you should. You may have to scout through library shelves all over the planet for it — I think it sold almost no copies — but it’s terrific. It had the bad luck, I think, to come out for that fractional generation of kids that had pretty much never been interested in mysteries, which it is, but given how mysteries have come roaring back among teenagers recently, somebody should reissue it and it deserves a lot of attention.

    Very glad to see he didn’t give up on YA entirely!

  2. Great teaser! I was a huge Lemony Snicket fan and am so excited to see a new Handler project. Definitely going on my “to read” list.

  3. This is a tease. I’ve been wanting to read this book SO BADLY since I first read about it a few months ago.

  4. Victoria Stapleton says:

    I’m bustin’ in on the joint to tell the world that WHY WE BROKE UP by the magnificent team of Handler & Kalman will arrive on December 27. 2011, just in time to wash Christmas out of your hair and off your reading shelf. If you’d like to get the galley, send an email to Use the title in the subject line and remember No PO Boxes.

  5. Brian Kenney says:

    OK, we’re teased. But what did you think of the art work?

  6. I’m glad I picked this one up at BEA. It sounds like a fantastic love story!

  7. John, exactly what I need, another book to read! Seriously, I ljust ordered it online and look forward to reading it.

    Annie, I loved the Snicket books and was fascinated by where Handler went with those books. Very deceptive – very complex. This is an entirely different type of book, yet it has in common that it appears to be one thing (a romance) and delivers something different (a complex character study).

    Adrienne, I cannot wait to hear what you think about it.

    Victoria, thanks!

    Brian, I just edited the entry re the artwork.

    Michelle, I look forward to your review.