Min has broken up with boyfriend, Ed. He’s a popular boy and she’s not so many may wonder why on earth she would break his fragile, masculine heart. Here is why.
Daniel Hander (better known as Lemony Snicket) tells the story of Min Green as she falls in what she calls love with Ed Slaterton, co-captain of the basketball team and pretty much the popular playboy of their school. Her friends disprove as do Ed’s and the story becomes one of subtle high school gaslighting and the fragility of toxic masculinity. It was an interesting look at high school romances and how intense the feelings can be for a relationship that only lasts a few weeks at the most. I, personally, feel that the absolute subtlety of the gaslighting is something to do with it’s hard to pick up on unless you have experienced a relationship where it happened (of course opinions in that regard will obviously vary).
I love Min and relate to her so much. She’s obsessed with classic cinema, she’s reasonably intelligent, and she is also naive as hell. The moment Ed is nice to her, she finds herself falling, a side effect of her lack of self-confidence that comes out later in the book. She doubts herself and allows herself to be “in love” with someone who is completely wrong for her despite what her friends say. It’s a difficult position to be in and one I know well which made Min so incredibly relatable.
Ed, on the other hand, is almost every ex-boyfriend I had in my youth. He thinks that buying presents and simply saying “Sorry” every time he does something offensive and/or stupid will fix his problems. He throws out words like “gay”, “faggy”, and the likes when he doesn’t like things. But despite these problems that become more and more evident as the story goes on, he is written in a way that makes the reader understand why Min is so certain she is in love with him, and that he loves her back.
The side characters (of which there are several who are important to the story), are rounded and real, only helping to further flesh out a story told in a letter to a douchey boyfriend.
The Issues [spoilers]
The issues with the book aren’t even really issues, as they are addressed as the plot furthers, but are still enough that it might put people off. As I mentioned above, Ed is the image of toxic masculinity. He thinks anything “artistic” or not macho is “gay” or “faggy” and is constantly accusing Min’s friend Al of being gay for liking the same things she does. Not only that, but at the end of the novel when Min discovers that Ed has been cheating on her, he compares it the friendship Min and Al share (which, in case you couldn’t tell, makes Ed jealous).
This book is a serious look at the excuses men (note: anyone who says “No all men” in the comments of this is a part of the problem) make for their crappy behaviour. It’s a look at toxic people who have us push away those we care about because their hold over us is threatened by the ones telling us the truth that we are too blind to see.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I seriously enjoyed it and Handler is unparallelled in his ability to make an atmosphere so intense that it is just as threatening in your head as it is out of it (if that makes sense). He is able to spin the story to make you feel paranoid about why the atmosphere makes you uncomfortable or if that’s truly the feeling you have in the pit of your stomach. There were times where it came off as a bit pretentious, and I found myself slightly distracted, but it was a wonderfully written novel that introduces some interesting insight into toxic relationships without making it entirely obvious that that is the point of the story.
Definitely worth picking up if you’re curious about how Handler writes when he’s not donning the persona of Lemony Snicket.
Author: Daniel Handler (with illustrations by Maira Kalman)
Published: December 27th 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Summary: 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.