In general I like Young Adult books. I do not read a lot of YA books because I do not make them a priority for my reading. I am around much younger children most of the time. But in early April Amazon offered 10 of the 13 Lemony Snicket books for free. I picked all of the free ones up and bought book One (which was not free.) The books were only offered for one day, so the assumption is that it was probably a pricing mistake, not a promotion. (This is a good reason that you should follow Books on the Knob or one of the other free book sites so that you find out about the free books quickly.)
I saw the Lemony Snicket movie a few years ago in the theater. The content of the movie is from the first three books. I was on vacation last week and read through the first three books. I had an idea of the story line because of the movie and the movie and the books are pretty similar.
I am a fan of the writing. The books are self consciously negative. The second book starts with a few pages talking about what the story would be like if it were a standard children’s story. It would be light and happy and everyone would live happily ever after. But that is not how things work in this book. There are several “warnings” not to read further if you want a happy story.
The books also do a wonderful job of introducing vocabulary. There are a ton of asides where the definition of the word is discussed. It completely fits into the story and is a running joke, but there are dozens of words introduced in each book.
The basic story is that three children, a 14 year old girl, her 11 year old brother and a baby girl become orphans within the first few pages of the first book. The children are then sent to live with a distant cousin, “Count Olaf”. The Count tries to figure out a way to get at their money. The children learn that they cannot depend on adults for help. (This is one of the negative themes of this book. If you are reading with children it is a great place for discussions.)
As an adult you will be a bit put off by the fact that the adults are so stupid in these books. I think that from the perspective of children reading these books, it makes sense. Adults often do not understand or listen to children in the real world. In these books, the adults do not care for children as they should. The adults have their own issues, there are good adults, but the good adults are often killed by Count Olaf.
The themes and reality of these books are pretty dark, at least one person dies in each of the first three books and I would guess that continues in later books. Adults trying to steal the money of the kids, and adults being preoccupied with their own problems and fears, especially in book 3. I think that it is probably true with many child and adult interactions.
Overall I think that the books are pretty good. I do not know if I will read the rest of the books or not. Each story is basically another instance of Count Olaf in another disguise trying to steal the money from the children. The children recognize Count Olaf, but no one else does and they have to figure out how to save themselves or thwart his plan. Then in the next book they are placed in a new home and the story starts all over.
I now have 11 of the 13 book (missing book 7 and 8) and I have only paid $8.99. I will probably read 4 to 6 and stop unless one of the families that share my kindle account decide to read more.