Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kid Konnection: Why We Broke Up (Audio)

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with a few of my thoughts about a young adult audio book that I received at this year's BEA.

Summary: I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. 

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped. -- Hachette Audio

I remember there being a lot of buzz at last year's BEA for the young adult novel WHY WE BROKE UP written by Daniel Handler and artwork by Maira Kalman. For some unknown reason (probably the 1000+ books on my shelf), I never got around to reading this book; and that's a crying shame because I absolutely loved this book... every single word of it.

Despite having an ARC of this book, it wasn't until I received the audio version at the Audio Publishers Association Audio Tea that I finally read this book. It actually was one of the first of my 2012 BEA goodies that I devoured! (At this year's BEA, Bermudaonion and I were fortunate enough to attend this event that featured Dion Graham, Debbie Macomber, Lee Child and Daniel Handler. We even were lucky enough to sit at one of the front tables with the wonderful crew from Hachette Audio as well as Mr. Handler's editor!)

At its simplest, WHY WE BROKE UP is Min Green's story about her whirlwind romance with Ed Slaterton. However, the way it is presented is what makes this book so darn special. (Well that and about 100 other things!) The premise of the story is that Min writing a letter along with assembling a box of their dating memorabilia to hand over to Ed. She's basically describing their entire relationship (all of the ups and the downs) and the reasons why they broke up. Included in the book is Ms. Kalman's wonderful artwork showing all of the various trinkets from the times they spent together.

WHY WE BROKE UP is fantastic and I absolutely loved it! As I write this review, it's hard for me to get a handle on my thoughts because there were so many things that made this book memorable. I think I'll just touch upon a few and the rest is best discovered as you read (listen to) this novel. First and foremost, I was blown away by Ms. Handler's writing -- seriously, blown away. My daughter has been singing his praises for years when she reads (and re-reads) the Lemony Snicket book, but this was my first experience with his writing; and boy is he good. This book is funny (actually hilarious just like Mr. Handler!), but it's also touching. Ms. Handler raises so so many universal themes about love and loss, and he gives the reader a great deal to think about. Plus, he wrote in a teen girl's voice and nailed it -- that's impressive!

Another outstanding thing about WHY WE BROKE UP is the character of Min. There is no doubt that Min is a special girl (or arty as Ed might say!), but she's also very real; and I think teen girls will have no problems relating to her. (Heck, I could relate to Min and it's been 25 years or so since I experienced a break-up similar to hers.) I loved how she just put it all out there -- her feelings of love, her feelings of loss, taking a huge chance with a popular guy, pushing her friends aside, and finally her anger and resentment. Min's words will resonate with anyone, any age, who has been in a failed relationship.

Of course, my reading experience wouldn't be complete without seeing all of Ms. Kalman's amazing artwork (I'm a big fan!) so I decided to take a peek at the physical book as well. I am pretty sure that all of the artwork was included on one of the disks, but I still liked skimming through the actual book to get an idea of how it all flowed. It's just an all-around wonderful book and so worthy of the Printz Honor that it received.

The audio version of WHY WE BROKE UP was read by Khristine Hvam. I still feel like I don't have enough experience with audio books to judge a narrator; however, I can tell you that I thought Ms. Hvam was perfect! I loved how she became Min, but I also liked how she did the other kids' voices too. In fact, when I tried reading some from the physical book, it just wasn't the same. I wanted to hear Ms. Hvam tell me this story!

WHY WE BROKE UP would make a great teen book club selection. (Notice I said teen. This book does have some foul language, underage drinking, and sex in it.) I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide, but there are so many topics to discuss including love, loss, trust, insecurities, friendships, relationship issues, and healing.

As far as I'm concerned, WHY WE BROKE UP is a must-read (or must-listen) book! Thanks to the publisher for giving me a copy of this wonderful audio book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

I suspected this would be funny since he was so funny at the tea. I can't wait to read it!

Laura Fabiani said...

It's great when a narrator can bring the main character to life. I'm currently listening to Delirium on audio and I feel the same way.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oops, I erred on Mr. Linky, if you can get rid of last week's entry! :--)

I am totally the same re Why We Broke Up. Got it last year at BEA, and there it sits. Now that I know how you feel, I'm going to have to read it!!!