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 Reptile Room (Young Adult 190 pages) by Lemony Snicket.
“Dear Reader, If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. They story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery. In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the reappearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again. I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket.”
I’ve found that a lot of comments from my previous book review of A Series of Unfortunate Events: the Bad Beginning apply to this book as well. I’m going to leave those comments here, just in case someone randomly decides to read this book review without reading the previous one for this series.
This series 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 happily ever after, such as if Uncle Monty had been able to remain the guardian for the Baudelaire children. They could have been happy travelling the world and studying reptiles with Uncle Monty.
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. The story, and the series, continues to subtly and not-so-subtly introduce new vocabulary to people who may want new words and to those who may not have a very extensive vocabulary to start with. There are 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. One example of this is when the children use Uncle Monty’s books on reptiles to identify the method of Uncle Monty’s death and find clues to prove something nefarious happened to him. 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 Reptile Room. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1999.