We broke up because he left the inner layer of his camouflage coat in my hall closet and I don’t shoot animals, or hook them.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (art by Maira Kalman) is one of my new favorite young adult books. I’m really picky when it comes to young adult books, probably much more picky than I am with adult books which means on a scale from one to ten – I am a giant horned cactus of picky.
Anyway, Why We Broke Up is the perfect, perfect, perfect young adult relationship book. Did I say perfect? It’s unbelievable. I felt like I was in high school all over again and nearly fainting when a guy wrote on a piece of notebook paper “I can’t stop thinking about you.” Granted, I never used my locker so there wasn’t any ruled paper notes slotted into the blue metal carriage, but I was passed hallway notes and had a fine time using gel pens to decorate the top of my hand with “I love Johnny” or “I love Justin.”
Unfortunately, all the guys I dated in high school had simple names like John, Justin, Jonathan, Brandon. And usually these names also have some sort of biblical reference because I’m from the Carolina’s where everyone “honks ’cause they love Jesus.” Keep in mind, this comes from the girl who wants to name her first child Lion.
Min has the most spot-on teenage girl voice. She slices through friendships to be with Ed Slaterton (the boy with the popular jock name) and refuses to listen to any of her friends when Ed makes obvious errors in judgment. He’s the quintessential high school sweet talker, the boy who’s hair actually waves in the hallway (and you thought only girls had hair flips). In my high school, all these boys had superhero names like Starbuck, and Donnellen. Honestly, my tenth grade year, on AOL instant messenger, I tried to get Starbuck to like me by making him guess who I was and telling him my hair was green. I was a swimmer so I thought I was being really witty about it all, “yea, you know, green hair, stained by chlorine, I’m such a dark horse.” Drama class with him fourth period was never the same. Needless to say I’m awkward and never had a break-up story in that one because I never had a start-up story.
Sigh. Why was I born such a word dork.
I loved this story because it had everything girls do in high school to keep boys. Let’s make a list, shall we?
- Girls share their fondest obsessions. For me, listening to Brandy every day while staring at the disco light on my ceiling and splaying my hair out on the floor like a mermaid. For Min, old movies and adventures following possible old movie stars.
- Girls give up their friends that are clearly hopelessly in love with them. For me, Edge who took me to every dance after the boy I was dating got his truck stuck in the mud….again. For Min, it’s Al who is clearly her perfect counterpart, but stands by with “no opinion” while she swoons over the basketball captain.
- Girls start to do things they normally wouldn’t. For Min, sit after school at basketball practice and, start drinking beer because “she’ll want to be drunk for this.” For me, driving to Greensboro frequently in hopes my mom wouldn’t find out even though she looked at my cell phone log and discovered I was calling from random area codes.
- Girls give themselves up. (We unhinge).
I could think of way more, but a list only works for so long. In high school, I was exactly what my nephew calls me, a hot mess. I wore 80s outfits every other day, spotted high heels, neon colors, refused to let my hair curl and made my mother straighten it every morning while I sat on the toilet watching it burn in the mirror. I wanted one boy who was far away and gave me promise rings, and I wanted the five others who waited in line because I was “interesting.” That’s certainly a compliment, I think. I always wanted to be the interesting one, the unattainable, so I always dated boys far away who were practically useless and used me just like I used them, fillers.
There are good ones though, my senior year I dated a boy who brought me flowers on mornings for no occasion, wrote me notes and signed them “superman” and paid for everything. There are winners, they are few and far between though. Thus why more girls should watch teen mom and not hook into this. I’m sure I’ll tell my daughter a thousand times not to date forever in high school and she’ll be committed by the second week of ninth grade. Dear lord.
Anyway, enough of my story. Why We Broke Up is the story of why Min and Ed break-up. My favorite part is that every image in the book is a piece of the break-up box. Now boys, I know this is new to you, but I dare you – please take a peak through a closet you don’t usually use in the house you share with your wife or girlfriend and you might find their break-up box. A break-up box is all the mementos, photos, movie tickets, prom corsages, scrawled notes, and letter jackets that were ever given. If your girlfriend/wife is smart she would have burned that box in a trash can fire a long time ago while she got heated and bitter over what an a-hole that last guy was. If she decided she wanted to show her daughters these photos later, then she’s more like me, and we’re sad together over all those nights we listened to Brandy and cried. Don’t worry, “No Scrubs” came soon after and we reminded ourselves what suckers we had dated.
The break-up box is a classic tool and Min decides to give it back to Ed with all of their love tokens. Now that I think about it, it actually makes her look even more sad because she saved all the tissues he blew his nose in, and a piece of pepperoni from their shared pizza that dribbled from his lip and fell on the floor (no, not really, I made that all up, but she saved some odd little trinkets of their romance).
I guess I just loved this book because I saw myself in it – like all good books. I was waiting for the clutch moment at the end that I knew was coming, I was suspicious the whole time, but refused to believe Ed would do such a despicable thing. Even though, I was in love with Ed too, he really seemed to want to give Min everything and fix everything and make her whole. It’s always the ones that want, want, want to and don’t need to, that are the culprits.
Read this book. I’m telling you right now, I’ve told you this whole blog . Read this book, go into your closet and crack the plastic lid of your break-up box. Pull out those glued together pictures from the plastic sleeve of your binder and the quotes about love that you wrote under each one. Look him up on facebook, see his new baby’s Charlie Brown head. Laugh at the headband they chose to make it look smaller. Listen to some Taylor Swift. Take a permanent marker to one of his eyes, make him a pirate. Get all young adult on everyone’s butt. Open the box, Pandora, Open the book.
Warning: Min talks in only run-on sentences and Ed talks in only fragments. If you read this blog, and find it coherent, you probably don’t mind either of those things.
Here are some Break-Up Stories from The Why We Broke Up Project.
Here’s the quote I scribbled in my journal:
“In the bathroom mirror there was even a smudge of dirt on my neck, and I wiped it off in a hurried flush. The cheap paper towel so rough against my skin that I looked for a scrape in my reflection and then, meeting my own eyes, stood for a sec and tried to figure, like all girls in all mirrors everywhere, the difference between lover and slut” (Handler, 162).