Friendship is hugely important in the world of Why We Broke Up—in some ways, the book is about Min and Al just as much as it's about Min and Ed. At the same time, though, it's worth noting that platonic relationships aren't necessarily what they seem to be on the surface. Min and Al have been best friends forever, but he secretly has romantic feelings for her. And on the other side of the relationship, Ed and Annette supposedly broke up, but they're secretly fooling around.
In the world of Why We Broke Up, friendship trumps all else.
The reason things could never work between Min and Ed is that they were never really friends.
Perhaps unsurprisingly based on the title, love is a central theme in Why We Broke Up. Problem is, the word means different things to different characters. Min's love for Ed is more epic and melancholy than a Smiths song, while Ed's love is more jubilant and insincere, like a pop song that shoots up the charts, only to fall off when the next thing comes along. Spoiler alert: The next thing to come along is Annette. And yes, Min's totally crushed when she finds out. Which leaves us with a question for you: Is it always better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?
In the world of Why We Broke Up, romantic love is more important than anything.
Why We Broke Up makes a strong case for the old adage that opposites attract.
Why We Broke Up may not be a sexy vampire story, but Min Green knows a thing or two about lust. She feels it acutely for Ed Slaterton, and even after their breakup, she just can't quit gushing about how gosh darn hot he is. For a long time (well, five weeks), Min lets her desire eclipse her better judgment, ignoring warning signs that Ed isn't all she cracks him up to be. But when she finds out about his lust for other women, she can't stand the sight of him. "I could have touched you, wanted to, couldn't stand it," she writes. "Who were you, Ed? What could I do with you?" (40.88). It's the beginning of the end, for sure.
On the surface, Why We Broke Up is a love story, but the plot revolves mainly around sex.
Min's lust for Ed is broadcast clearly through her sensual descriptions of his body.
Min's love of movies is central to her personality in Why We Broke Up. She often thinks of her own life in terms of movie jargon and the plots of her favorite films. Is this tendency a charming quirk or a bad habit? Either way, she doesn't appreciate it when Ed turns the tables at the end of the book: "There must be some—I don't know, like a movie, right?" he says. "Isn't there some movie where it's like there's two guys, twins I think, one guy doing the right thing and—" (40.73). Min's reply? "This isn't a movie. We're not movie stars" (40.74). She could have fooled us.
Min's insistence that life is like the movies is damaging, both to herself and to others.
Min's insistence that life is like the movies is an admirable trait—it's a key part of her whimsy.
The three main characters of Why We Broke Up are each deceptive in their own way. Since Ed's the one who broke Min's heart, she zooms in most on his lies—thing is, though, Ed isn't a particularly skillful liar. When it comes to Annette he has a bad case of mentionitis, and there are other signs (including many from Joan) that Min can't—or won't—see. Does Min read the clues correctly and ignore them? Or is she really so blinded by love that she never sees her breakup coming? Some might say Min's an unreliable narrator, but it's also possible that she herself doesn't know whether or not she knew what was up, if you know what we mean.
Min sees the signs that Ed is cheating on her, and she willfully ignores them.
Min doesn't know that Ed is cheating until their fight in the flower shop. Hindsight is 20/20, and she only deciphers the clues in retrospect.
Regrets—Min has a few. Her sadness weaves its way through Why We Broke Up, taking the edge off sharper feelings like love and anger. The breakup box, the central device that structures the book (more on this over in the "Symbols" section), is itself an object imbued with deep nostalgia, filled as it is with relics of Min's relationship with Ed. As she goes through the objects within it one by one, we can't help but notice she's feeling blue. Stay strong, girl—breaking up is hard to do. Even when you're super confident it's the right choice.
Why We Broke Up is best read as a tragedy—the end is a huge bummer.
Why We Broke Up is best read as a comedy—the whole point is that Min's moving on.
Why We Broke Up is not a comedy of errors, but it involves multiple cases of mistaken identity. In the climactic scene where the breakup finally occurs, the florist confuses Min with Annette, and at exactly the same time, Min discovers that she has confused the identities of Lottie Carson, a dead film star, and a random old lady in town. This set of doubles (Annette/Min and Lottie/"Lottie") echo the situations of other characters that are leading secret lives. Ed is Min's boyfriend, but not, because he's cheating on her with Annette. And Al is Min's platonic best friend, but not, because he's actually in love with her. It's enough to make a girl's head spin.
Why We Broke Up is rife with mistaken identities, but by the end of the book, we've sorted out who's who.
Why We Broke Up is rife with mistaken identities, but by the end of the book, the characters still seem uncertain about who they are.
Why We Broke Up is written from the perspective of a high school student who recently lost her virginity, so it's a safe bet that it's a story about coming of age. By toggling back and forth between flashbacks and the present day, we as readers get to see who the characters have been and who they are now, getting a sense of how they've matured (or, in the case of Ed, perhaps plateaued). The question looming at the end of the book, though, is who will they become. They're just teens after all, so there's more coming of age for them on the horizon.
Min matures rapidly over the course of the book, and by the time it ends, she's learned a lot about life.
Min doesn't really change over the course of the book. When she breaks up with Ed, her life just returns to how it was before she met him.