By Lemony Snicket
Full disclosure: Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) is my favorite author. I think everything he writes is hilarious and insightful and brilliant. I know many readers find his style off-putting or simply just don’t get it. If you fall into one of those categories and think that this book might be different, it’s not. It’s just as quirky and wonderful and genius as the last 22 books he penned.
When Did You See Her Last? is the second installment in his latest series, All the Wrong Questions, which tells the story of a young Lemony Snicket as he and his incompetent chaperone attempt to find a missing girl, Cleo Knight. Snicket begins asking questions like “When did you see her last?” “Do you know what the formula is?” and “Did she leave a message?” But he quickly learns that these are the wrong questions and that Cleo Knight is only one part of the increasingly complicated mystery surrounding the quirky town of Stain’d by the Sea.
When Did You See Her Last? features many of Snicket’s signature tropes: brilliant children, adults who refuse to listen, and a nefarious villain. In this case, nefarious means someone who will push you out of a very high window if you get in the way. In fact, aside from new mysteries and new characters, All the Wrong Questions isn’t terribly different from the last series he wrote, A Series of Unfortunate Events. His insightful quips about the human condition will make you laugh, and then they’ll make you think. He hides dozens of references to books, art, and music if you know where to look for them, and his quirky style so perfectly blends the realistic and the absurd.
So if All the Wrong Questions is just a shorter version of A Series of Unfortunate Events with new characters and new questions, what makes it worth reading? In the end that, dear reader, is something only you can decide, but I will give you my two cents. Although Snicket’s books, while good mysteries and great story-telling, are fun in and of themselves, it is the heart of the books that makes them great. Snicket values family, friendship, intelligence, and courage. He acknowledges the pain and brokenness of the world. And he encourages readers, young and old alike, to get up every day and attack the world and its fearsome questions even when all the odds are against you. And those are the type of books that I will never tire of reading.