"Shouldn't You Be in School?" - Lemony Snicket
Let me make one thing clear, here. This is not a review of Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). This is not a review of Handler's presentation at the NBA banquet. This is a review of his book. A book, it should be said, that I found enchanting, a word which here means, "I really, really, liked the novel!" So, without further ado, here is my review of the penultimate novel in this particular quadrilogy.
Do you smell smoke? Young apprentice Lemony Snicket is investigating a case of arson but soon finds himself enveloped in the ever-increasing mystery that haunts the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea. Who is setting the fires? What secrets are hidden in the Department of Education? Why are so many schoolchildren in danger? Is it all the work of the notorious villain Hangfire? How could you even ask that? What kind of education have you had? (Description courtesy of Goodreads)
As usual, Snicket's descriptive abilities continue to impress me, as does his ability to weave a multi-novel mystery with great flair. What I find most enjoyable is Snicket's ability to work vocabulary and "lessons about life" (if one can call them that) into his work without any of it feeling overly didactic. I mean, it is didactic, but it flows so well within the overall narrative that I have very little concern over it being read as "preachy."
[Sharon] sat down between us, and I watched Theodora nodding seriously at Sharon the way one adult has nodded at the nonsense of another adult since the first adult walked on the earth. "I think I have a medical condition, too," Theodora said. "Lately when I'm driving my roadster I have the peculiar sensation of everything being quieter than it should be."
"That could be because your helmet covers your ears," I said.
While I sometimes wonder about the portrayal of adults as incompetent and devoid of brains, the empowerment of young protagonists and secondary characters within the All the Wrong Questions series is fabulous! Because the books are very witty and somewhat ridiculous, the belittling of the adult characters works in a very different way than in realism, at least in my opinion. I think Snicket's series' work to empower young people and help them to see their potential.
I am part of an invincible army, but not a victorious one.
Hidden amidst the humour and silliness, Snicket shows moments of seriousness and truth as regards larger life themes. Fighting oppression and corruption lie at the centre of this series, and even though the books are full of jokes, Snicket (the author and the protagonist) work to counter forces that seek to destroy the vivaciousness of childhood and youth.