I saw, recently, that Lemony Snicket had been present at a local Portland bookstore, signing books. I missed the event. I was very intrigued to discover who this Lemony Snicket character might be. I understand that Daniel Hadler writes under the pen name, Lemony Snicket, but who shows up for a book signing when the author's name is Lemony Snicket? Would that be Daniel Hadler or someone acting the part of Lemony Snicket? Hmm.
About ten of the students in the book club read "A Series of Unfortunate Events" book #1. It was a fast, easy read for these teenagers and even though they liked it, they were pretty quick to criticize, which here means finding fault. Most of them did not seem to understand the humorous technique that the author employs of using a somewhat difficult word and then defining it for the reader. Example: "Violet was sleeping fitfully - a word which here means "with much tossing and turning" - on the lumpy bed." (81). The high school students were highly critical of this technique, claiming that it felt patronizing, which here means talking down to.
"But what about the humor?" I asked.
"It's not funny," they claimed.
"What about when he describes "adversity" as "Count Olaf"?"
"Well, that was slightly hysterical, which here means extremely funny, but that was the only one."
"Did you get that sometimes the definitions weren't quite right?"
"Well, duh," they said, which here means that is really obvious and stupid.
I have to admit that when a teenager says "duh," it's really difficult to come up with a witty comeback.
After the discussion, I felt that these students were a bit too old for the book. Honestly, there seems to be a weird middle ground where teens are too old for middle grade books, and then they like them again when they're young adults. I'm not sure why this is except that perhaps we become more accepting when adults, a little less hyper critical, and we can acknowledge the humor without feeling condescended to, which here means patronized.
I have had a few jobs in my life that I didn't enjoy: detassling corn, working in a small motor parts factory, framing pictures, serving food, and rejecting bad eggs in an egg factory. Today, I take part in a book club for teens and I love every minute of it.