I just recently finished reading all 13 books of A Series of Unfortunate Events. In honor of finishing a series of this magnitude, I thought I would write my review of the novels in list format. So, here are 13 things I absolutely LOVE about A Series of Unfortunate Events!
- The author seamlessly teaches vocabulary in the plot itself!
- If Snicket uses a word or phrase that he thinks children won’t understand, he subsequently explains it – most often by saying “a word/phrase which here means…” and then offering a contextual definition. It’s an amazing way to keep kids interested AND learning at the same time.
- The novels are for kids, but there are some adult-y quips and situations.
- For example: at one point, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire meet another youngster – Quigley – and he and Violet really fancy each other. They climb up a mountain together to do some villain-scouting, and they start talking and getting to know one another. Quigley calls Violet beautiful, and Lemony Snicket then proceeds to tell his reader that he won’t disrupt the privacy of the eldest Baudelaire by revealing “what happened between those two young adults that day.” … I won’t say, either, but it’s not sounding very kiddish.
- Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are not held to gender-conforming standards of interest.
- Violet is a girl who loves machines and inventing (and, we’re explicitly told, did not play with dolls as a child). Klaus loves reading and researching and has almost no knowledge of machinery; he relies on Violet for that kind of knowledge. And Sunny – who is a baby/toddler during almost all of our time with her – is never given an expressly feminine or masculine trait; she just likes to bite stuff with her very sharp teeth.
- The nicknames for the children are consistent between volunteers and villains (children vs. orphans).
- Volunteers are the noble people of the novels, and villains are the more heinous people of the novels (or so it would seem, but things are not always as black and white as that). All of the volunteers refer to the three children as “the children” – or some other endearing term. All of the villains refer to them as “orphans.” This makes it somewhat easier for the reader (who is left in the dark about some people’s identities) to decide for themselves who is “noble” and who is “not.”
- People die (and don’t come back).
- That sounds morbid, I know, but it’s actually a good thing. Whatever side of this debate you’re on, we can all agree that it is an inevitable fact of life that all people pass away some day. Once someone is gone, the only way we can connect with them is in our hearts and when we pass on ourselves someday (as long as you believe in that sort of thing). Violet, Klaus, and Sunny at one point in time believe that at least one of their parents is still alive. When they find out that they are truly gone, the children are overcome with a second wave of grief. But they are able to keep going on with their lives because their lives are demanding. This teaches anyone reading these novels that even though people pass away and it’s sad, we have to keep going. Because life is demanding and tricky, but we have to try our best to live it.
- Friends get separated but there is still love in everyone’s hearts.
- Even though you may never see or speak to a friend again, you’re always still thinking of them. Even if you ended on bad terms, you think of them from time to time and wish them the best in life. There are some lessons of that fact in these novels.
- Not everything is explained in nice succinct ways (or even at all, sometimes).
- Life is messy, and these novels epitomize that idea. No one has the ability to explain all of life’s mysteries (literally, for the Baudelaire children), and no one ever will. You just have to roll with the punches.
- Each book teaches a different way of dealing with worldly events.
- In some of the books, the Baudelaires work with each other to overcome trials, but in others, they have to divide and conquer. Not every decision we have to make has a clear right and wrong, and the children have to do some things they aren’t proud of in order to survive and figure out who they are in the world.
- The books are short and easy to read…
- For children – or someone super busy like myself – reading an entire 13-book series sounds like a challenge. But because these novels are short (average 250 pages with somewhat larger font), it’s a breeze to read four or five of them in a month.
- …but they’re not so short that you find yourself wondering why you’re reading them in the first place.
- Even though they’re short, the novels are packed with action and mystery. It doesn’t feel too fast or too slow – everything happens right when it’s meant to.
- Lemony Snicket is the author and a character we never meet (but have simultaneously already met…).
- This is somewhat confusing. Lemony Snicket is a volunteer – a noble member of a secret organization – who is dedicated to investigating the Baudelaire story. So, he is the author of the books. But there is always the feeling that he is closer to his own investigation than he is letting on. In the last few books, we find out that he is related to some of the characters in the series and (big twist) involved with the Baudelaire family in a very close, very real way. But we never meet him as a character in the novel; he never writes himself into a scene or anything. But we’ve already met him – as the writer. (Still with me?)
- There are so many connections that the reader can make (but that never explicitly get told) that reading the novels starts to feel like an investigation in and of itself.
- We as readers have to piece together certain information, and it becomes like an investigation into all of the unexplained mysteries the Baudelaires have had to deal with in the novels.
- The book’s ending is neither happy nor sad.
- I felt really unsatisfied with the ending – because it wasn’t happy but also wasn’t sad. I think that’s a good thing; life is neither happy nor sad because it doesn’t truly end. Even when we’re gone, our stories continue to affect the outcomes to the stories of the people close to us – or who were even remotely connected with us in life. No story ever truly comes to a happy or sad ending because no story ever truly ends. That is unsatisfying when reading a 13-book series, but that’s the point – to be unsatisfied and curious.
I absolutely loved these books! Were there things I didn’t appreciate? Sure – the fact that the suspense in the novels sometimes feels debilitating is one (but I realize the necessity of the reader feeling that way). But all-in-all, the “good”s far outweigh the “bad”s. Go and read these books! Seriously – they’re quick reads with amazing narrative styles. I deem them Sierra-approved!
14. The last book ends with a twist. Don’t ask, just make sure you’ve read ALL of the sheets of paper in the last book…