Friday, October 20, 2017

LEMONY SNICKET: THE UNAUTHORIZED AUTOBIOGRAPHY


Review of LEMONY SNICKET: THE UNAUTHORIZED AUTOBIOGRAPHY
(fourteenth in the A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS series)

Oh, did you think the series was done and finished after thirteen books? Well, it’s back with an additional bonus installment, a very tongue in cheek autobiography of the mysterious character behind chronicling the Baudelaires’ unfortunate events.

This is an even quicker read than the already short middle reader books in the original series, as it’s packed with photos and “documents,” meaning fewer actual words on the page.

At times I found the humor a bit young for me, sometimes tedious. Part of the style is Snicket’s propensity for ridiculous rambling tangents. That being said, I expect it’s spot on for the target age and has the fun reward of involving the reader as a co-conspirator in untangling this spy-like puzzle. And the humor still managed to take me by surprise with a good laugh. I particularly encourage reading the Index at the end. My favorite entry is “Poe, Edgar Allan,” which - after listing the relevant pages - says “see also overall feeling of doom.” Look up to the “O” section for “overall feeling of doom” and you find yourself redirected to “see doom, overall feeling of.” Flip back to “D” and the page numbers of relevance are listed as “ix-211.” Yup, that would be the whole book.

It should be no surprise to readers of the series if I add that there isn’t much logical flow to this “autobiography” and that you might find yourselves with more new questions than new answers by the end. Regardless, it’s a playful addition to a popular series that should give younger readers the chance to hunt for clues at coded double meanings.

Friday, October 6, 2017

BEWARE THAT GIRL


Review of BEWARE THAT GIRL by TERESA TOTEN
(based on a review copy)

This story switches in a quick back and forth between two teenage girls: Kate and Olivia. Kate is a hardened manipulator. After a nightmare childhood, she’s learned to take care of herself, a skill that involves no small amount of lying. Currently, she’s conning everyone at her prestigious prep school into believing she lives with her aunt, when in reality she rents out a dump of a room in Chinatown. When Olivia befriends and subsequently invites Kate to move in, it’s the break Kate needs.

Olivia is an idol at their school, due in part to wealth and part to juicy rumors. She disappeared for a whole school year and no one seems sure about why. From some medicine cabinet snooping, Kate knows it must be mental health related but not the details.

Then the young, charming Mark Redkin joins the school administration as a fundraiser. He’s gorgeous with a killer smile and always seems to know exactly what to say to win over whomever he’s addressing. So then why does he make Kate’s skin crawl?

Perhaps her past makes her too cynical, but Kate suspects Mark’s public mask is too good to be true. Her gut tells her he’s bad news, but she can see Olivia being sucked in by the charm. One of the keys to survival is not investing enough in the well being of others to jeopardize your own hard-won safety, but Kate’s finding it harder than she expected watching Olivia drift dangerously closer to Mark.

This is one of those books that exemplify why I dislike rating books with stars. I would give most of the book 5 out of 5 stars. I devoured it. I found the characters disturbingly believable and the suspense had a level of creepiness I usually only experience in speculative fiction. That said, I felt the whole story fell apart at the end. It feels like character development, believability, subtlety, all of that gets sacrificed at the alter of drama and fast pace for an overdone climax that doesn't fit well with the rest of the novel.

While disappointed that the book didn’t hold its own through the end, I still found it a fast, gripping read that I would particularly recommend to anyone interested in psychology. The main characters here are vastly different but each grapples with their own internal battle of survival and what that concept means to them.