Book Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events 05: the Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

I have decided that a Series of Unfortunate Events are the perfect books for my morning cardio routine at the gym. Friday’s book was a Series of Unfortunate Events 05: the Austere Academy (Young Adult 221 pages) by Lemony Snicket.

“Dear Reader, If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives. Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system. It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket.”

One of the points I have commented on for my previous reviews of this series is how much I enjoy the writing style. I like how the structure works and how the sentences flow. 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.

My favorite example of the writing style for this particular book was on page 138-139: “As I’m sure you know, a good night’s sleep helps you perform well in school, and so if you are a student you should always get a good night’s sleep unless you have come to the good part of your book, and then you should stay up all night and let your schoolwork fall by the wayside, a phrase which means ‘flunk.'” This passage made me laugh because I have spent many nights reading until almost the time when my alarm goes off, which makes me curse the author (in the best way possible for ensnaring me so completely into the story and the characters) and I spend the next day not as coherent as is normal for me. I hope to someday be one of those authors who creates such an engaging world that readers simply must keep going.

As the Baudelaires discuss their situation with the Quagmire Triplets, Violet mentions a great inventor named Nikola Tesla and Duncan mentioned a great journalist named Dorothy Parker and I thought both of those references were absolutely spectacular. I enjoyed the Quagmire Triplets and I have no desire to give any spoilers away about this book for those who may not have read it. I liked the interactions between Violet, Klaus, Sunny, Duncan, and Isadora because it was refreshing to see that even in a place you don’t belong, you can find others who will help you dream and make your life better. The Quagmire Triplets changed the lives of the Baudelaires and that was a very good thing.

Another section that I found particularly amusing happened on page 200-201 where they are discussing how “there’s nothing wrong with athletics, but they shouldn’t get in the way of your schoolwork” and I just laughed because these books are the exact opposite opinion of so many athletic people from my youth.

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 Austere Academy. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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