Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.
In the first two books alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, a lumpy bed, a deadly serpent, a large brass reading lamp, a long knife, and a terrible odour.
In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted. Never before has a tale of three likeable and unfortunate children been quite so enchanting, or quite so uproariously unhappy.
Spoiler Alert: The Reptile Room is the sequel in A Series of Unfortunate Events series, the first being The Bad Beginning, which means spoilers may run rampant in this review.
When it came to The Bad Beginning I said it was frustrating. The Reptile Room? Infuriating. I’m trying to think of the writing more so than the characters, but it’s difficult to divorce the two from each other.
I’ll begin with why I find The Reptile Room infuriating. The adults; it all comes down to the adults. Ugh. They’re so moronic! Why? Just, why? There’s several reasons why I can think of the need for the adults to be completely and utterly hopeless. The first is this series is for a young audience, not quite little children, but definitely for middle graders. How many middle graders think adults are idiots and find them difficult to communicate with? We’ve all been there. That time when you’re not quite old enough to take charge of your own life, but you are old enough to begin to understand. When we’re growing up it is common for adults to make us feel as though we’re too precious to get our feelings across; we’re too precious to be taken seriously.
In making the adults in The Reptile Room aggravatingly daft, this magnifies the feelings of young adults being excluded when they should be heard more often. I can understand that, but not all adults are dingbats who don’t listen. Mr Poe for instance, telling Klaus it’s rude to interrupt only to interrupt the children time and time again.
I want to slap Mr Poe.
Seriously, there’s a crazy person after their fortune and willing to harm anyone to get to it, he has put on an elaborate play in the past to marry Violet and bamboozled everyone while he was doing it. Why can’t they learn from their mistakes? Why can’t they be more wary when it comes to the insipid schemes Count Olaf comes up with? It’s not like Olaf was caught. He got away in The Bad Beginning. Count Olaf, I despise him so much, is insane and I just…. I can’t…
Another reason I can think of for the adults to be brainless twits is to help further the plot. The children wouldn’t be forced to come up with inventing ways of foiling Olaf’s plans if the adults could just… not… it’s so vexing!
I’m perplexed. I want to keep reading. The children are adorable, the writing is done well, and I want to see how the story actually ends. Except, I don’t know if I can handle the confounding ineptitude of the adults. I’ve been told they only get dumber. This leads me to wonder if by the 13th novel the adults are left drooling in a corner because they’ve been lobotomised. I mean, how can they get any dumber? HOW?
After all that, I’d still recommend The Reptile Room for its intended audience.