Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (illustrated by Maira Kalman)

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I’m not sure if you are aware, those of you who are tuning into my blog, but Daniel Handler is the guy behind those Lemony Snickett  stories. This was actually an assigned book for class, so hopefully that doesn’t make my review any less valid. The class was “Intro to Narrative” which I took for my Creative Writing degree. Daniel Handler is actually from SF, so that is really cool that he could come into our class. I have to say that I did love the style of writing. Handler took a bunch of objects and created this awesome story about why this couple broke up. As you would expect, there was a lot of sarcasm and the tone was very … poignant throughout the piece. “But we never did, did we? Here it is undeveloped, a roll of film with all its mysteries locked up. I never took it anyplace, just left it waiting in a drawer dreaming of stars. That was our time, to see if Lottie Carson was who we thought she was, all those shots we took, cracking up, kissing with our mouths open, laughing, but we never finished it. We thought we had time, running after her, jumping on the bus and trying to glimpse her dimple through the tired nurses arguing in scrubs and the moms on the phone with the groceries in the laps of the kids in the strollers.” I really liked the line, “we thought we had time” because essentially it’s about time lost and how she is never getting that time back. I have never been in a relationship but I’m sure you would have a box of things, of memories, that would either be kept or thrown away at the end of the relationship. From the lecture when Handler came into class, we learned that the drawings were done first and then the story. Which was an interesting concept because in picture books, the story goes before the illustrations. There was a few ordinary things that were made into a thousand words. There is one picture of a rubber band in here which you know, is such an ordinary object. But it holds all this memory for this couple. 

So for a rating I would say… you really have to read this one. If you are stuck inside on a rainy day, I highly recommend this book. 

What I learned from reading this book is that the little things do matter, in the sense that they can tell a story. That rubber band was so ordinary but Handler totally made it into this great story that captured both the love and the breakup in a way that I was engaged in the story. As a writing exercise, I would suggest taking a few household objects and writing a story in which your character can relate to and how this connects them to another character. Have there be both happy and sad memories with the object. And see if you can make the object seem like a character within itself… if that makes any sense. 

Thanks for reading today’s review. Hopefully they get better as time goes on. 

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Every Day by David Levithan

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This book took me longer to read than most books of this genre. I found it difficult to get into the book and invested in the character. The story follows this … entity… as it lives every day as a different person. Imagine waking up each day with a different body. The “entity” as I will hereafter refer to the narrator as, wakes up as someone else each day. It inhabits a body for a day and no matter how much it wants to stay, it has to move on to the next body. It can take memories from the person so that it isn’t confused, but essentially, the day is theirs. It doesn’t have a gender or a sexuality.

Now what if that … entity… were to fall in love? They fall in love with a girl. At first you think that it’s totally going towards a heterosexual relationship, but remember, this person can be a girl or boy on some days. The entity meets this girl and basically goes out of their way to see this girl in almost every body they are in ever since. It’s mainly about loving someone for who they are on the inside. The idea towards the book was great. I love it when I have to think hard about the subject and what it might mean towards society. But what I thought of the book was that it went on and on about the very minute and boring things. I wasn’t rooting for the entity in the end, I was just wishing it was over. There are some spiritual and maybe some emotional encouragement through this piece, but overall, not enough to keep me interested. One aspect I thought was really cool to read about was the depression ones. I felt the gnawing pains that the narrator would be feeling as they are experiencing depression. In most Young Adult books, someone is always depressed in some way. I think this author excelled in getting the audience into the skin that the entity was inhabiting very well.

If I had to rate this book, I would say it is a one out of five stars.

One thing I really learned from reading this book was that it is important to not just get the mental down but also the physical. To put the character in the physical as well. And sometimes the mental can block out the physical and vice versa. Prompt: Write a scene where your character’s mental state blocks out what he/she is feeling physically and then have this contrast with a time when their physical state paralyzes their ability to feel emotions. How does each scene play off each other and how can you make that into one scene? 

*If I happen to actually write this scene out I will remember to write it here.