Review of THE REPTILE ROOM by LEMONY SNICKET
(second in the A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS series)
After escaping from the evil Count Olaf and his plot to steal their family fortune, the three orphans are sent to live with their Uncle Montgomery. He’s a kind man who studies and collects snakes, and plans to take them on an exciting research expedition. It sounds too good to be true, and for such unfortunate orphans, it is.
It’s a theme throughout this series that adults are mostly incompetent. Often well-intentioned, but incompetent nonetheless. Every time the children figure out what’s going on, their greatest battle is convincing an adult who can help that they’re correct. In general, the adults in this series seem more comfortable doing nothing, a portrayal that, while at times frustrating for the reader, might be therapeutic for real-life children who feel they aren’t being heard by the adults around them.
Similarly, I have heard this series critiqued for being too dark for a young audience, but I think many children can relate to feeling helpless. The Baudelaire children are a helpless hyperbole, and yet they never use that as an excuse not to try. They’re capable and resourceful and work together. At its core, this is a tale about being a good person even when the world isn’t being good to you.
There’s also a fun story within a story in this series, as the author crafts an entire false persona for himself that ties into the plot. The dedications allude to a mysterious Beatrice. The author bios are odd and unsettling. The letter to the editors are further fiction with hints at what’s to come in the next book.
I love the humor in this series. There’s a very wry type of wit that understates the joke to make it all the funnier.
Unfortunately, though, this book does not have a happy ending.