The adventure began in a fading town. Far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket started an apprenticeship for a secret organization shrouded in mystery and secrecy. He asked questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published that shouldn’t be read. Not even by you. Seriously, we recommend that you do NOT ask your parents for this, the first book in his new ALL THE WRONG QUESTIONS series.
Lemony Snicket, in case you don’t already know, grew up to be the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events series.
Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series is wonderfully mysterious and melancholy. His literary genius is most certainly, and sadly underrated. He does so much more that write stories, each book hints at a discussion of something more. I thought it best to review all four book together rather than repeat myself across four reviews. Also, the stories, while separate cases, tell a continuous story.
From the start, the mood of the story is slightly ominous and unsettling, creating the perfect backdrop for Snicket’s honest, inquisitive narration. It is set in the town Stained-by-the-Sea, a city that was once great but is slowly dwindling away to nothing. There are treacherous villains, incompetent adults, forests of seaweed and mythical monsters.
The story can be read on many levels making it suitable for both the younger middle grade audience it is marketed at, but also adults. On one level, it is an adventure story filled with humour and sarcastic jokes. Then there’s the exploration of the world of adults versus the world of children, and how despite the fact that adults tend to overlook and belittle children, age does not equal intelligence. There’s the complicated discussion of human nature, and Snicket’s mysterious and sad past. And of course the multitude of literary references. They are the kind of books that need to be re-read order to fully grasp what Snicket is trying to get at, if one can ever truly understand.
For each question that is answered there are many more left unanswered. The plot is intense, and perfectly paced to allow for the maximum atmospheric effect. It is a new take on the traditional spy genre, filled with plenty of logic based sleuthing, spying, secret associates and undercover agents. It is almost like a film noir mystery (or at least how I’d imagine one to be).
The bright spot in the story is the friendships that Snicket forms and there is a whole cast of characters, each more bizzare and intriguing than the last. The art of showing, not telling, is used to a maximum and while you feel as if you get to know the characters, they still remain shrouded in as much mystery as the rest of the plot.
The art really compliments the story and contributes to the mysterious, unsettling mood. The covers are really lovely too (and I appreciate how they all match).
Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions books are the kind of stories that make you feel wistful and self-reflective, while at the same time make you laugh out loud. They are fun stories, but not exactly light reads. Highly recommended.