I needed a book to read while I was at the gym yesterday morning and I didn’t want anything long or complicated because of how much energy I’m putting into the mystery books I’m going through right now, so I chose a Series of Unfortunate Events: the Bad Beginning (Young Adult 162 pages) by Lemony Snicket.
“Dear Reader, I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune. In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast. It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket.”
This book is very aptly named, as it truly is a Series of Unfortunate Events. I think in a lot of ways, this book is actually a lot more realistic about demonstrating how life often is filled with chains of unpleasant things and how things rarely work out perfectly. There are multiple times throughout this story where a typical story of this nature would have a happy after, such as if Judge Strauss took the Baudelaire siblings in and was able to adopt them on her own. They could have lived lives filled with libraries and gardens.
But that’s not how the real world works.
In the real world, sometimes things just go wrong. It’s no one’s fault and there’s no one to blame for it or nothing you can do to fix it. Just like in the book, when the real world throws something less-than-stellar at you, you just have to do the best you can to find a solution and keep moving forward with the hope or knowledge that someday, things might actually get better.
I enjoyed the writing style of this book very, very much. I think this is a great book for anyone, not just younger people because of how words are defined not just by the context but by a similar definition. Right from the beginning of the story on page two: “The three Baudelaire children lived with their parents in an enormous mansion at the heart of a dirty and busy city, and occasionally their parents gave them permission to take a rickety trolley – the word ‘rickety,’ you probably know, here means ‘unsteady’ or ‘likely to collapse’ – alone to the seashore, where they would spend the day as sort of a vacation as long as they were home for dinner.” This is one of many examples of words being used and also described in context and defined, which I think is a great way to improve a reader’s vocabulary. And it’s written in such a way as to not be condescending, but to also demonstrate the full meaning of the intent of the word when used in very specific context.
One of the things I liked the most about this book is that the three siblings were all very different and had non-stereotypical interests. Violet is an inventor, Klaus is an academic, and Sunny is a powerful biter. Because of their various interests, they believe that anything can be solved, with the mindset that all you have to do is research what you’re trying to accomplish and there will be a book somewhere that will help you or point you in the right direction. This turns out to be true throughout the story, but the story also shows that just because you learn the information you needed doesn’t mean that things will turn out perfectly. Several examples include when the children need to figure out how to provide a meal for Count Olaf and his performing troupe, and so they find a recipe from a book they think is simple and tasty enough for them to be able to make with no previous experience or assistance. The recipe works out well but Count Olaf is dissatisfied. The children know that Count Olaf is up to something, but they can’t figure out what, so Klaus spends all night reading about what he thinks Count Olaf is attempting to do. He figures out the puzzle, but he doesn’t allow for Count Olaf being a total sleeze about what’s going on in the story. Even though things didn’t work out perfectly, the Baudelaire children use books and knowledge to solve the concerns in their world, and that is a huge win for me.
We are all, regards of our age, influenced by the world around us and the method we receive information. People who read this book will perhaps think that any concern can be addressed with enough research and information, which I think is probably the most important thing to teach.
Overall, I’d probably rate this book as a solid three on my rating scale because I really like the writing style, the characters are unique, and the message is mostly a positive one (for all that the book is not a happy story). I’m glad that I own this book and will continue with the rest of the books in the series.
Works cited: Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: the Bad Beginning. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1999.