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Reviews of Bad Beginning, the (1999)

Review by Beaver (2010-10-28)
I've been reading this series off and on with my daughter (I think we are on 7 or 8, but it's been a while). It's pretty predictable and simplistic, butdecent for a children's story. My daughter really enjoyed it and found it pretty thrilling, calling it a "no put down book" that makes you want to keep reading. It's darker than most shildrens books, but a very quick read. 6/10

Review by lavender411 (2008-03-28)
Well to tell you guys the truth i certainly love this book. its' one of the best i've read. I read really fast if it's interesting. it only took me 36 hours to finish. or should I say a day and a half. Usually an uninteresting book for me takes me 5 days to finish. Or not even finish it at all. Like R. L. Stine's books, it has suspense, but only a little bit. Go on read it. I bet his next books would be interesting as this.

Review by StefanY (2007-08-24)
Finished reading this recently and I have mixed feelings. While I found it to be an entertaining and quick read, I am unsure about its appropriatness for its target audience. While I have absolutely no issue with the darker subject matter presented, I do have issues with the way in which some of these dark ideas are developed. Olaf is a wonderfully evil and looney character, we get that pretty clearly in the book as well as the theme that he will stoop to any level to attempt to get the childrens' inheritance. What I disagree with that a lot of what Olaf and his cohorts do is unnecessary in a book aimed at children. They are just as evil without the drinking and without Olaf being quite so threatening and physically abusive. I just think that it was a bit harsh for young children. Reading (especially at that age) should be an enjoyable escape, not an uncomfortable experience.

But then again, maybe I'm way off base here. I don't know.

Review by islander255 (2007-02-24)
When you rate a novel on this site, the rating choice of 10 has the words "best book you've ever read" next to it. Normally I ignore this and give any novel I consider truly excellent a 10 rating. However, with this entire series the rating description truly applies, for this, tied with "Harry Potter" and "A Clockwork Orange", is one of my three favorite works of literature ever.

How to begin? Everyone knows the basic premise of the series: Count Olaf is after the Baudelaire orphans and their enormous fortune. I won't bother going deeper than that.

On to the analysis. This series can only be enjoyed by young children and older, more mature people who are willing to use their complex thought patterns. Adolescents and lazy adults will hate this book, because they cannot properly analyze literature and realize just how deep this series is.

This is because this book comes in many layers. I'll give the three main ones:

Layer 1: Very thin layer. This is what young children will see--the story of 3 orphans who go through miserable events because the evil Count Olaf is after them. At face value, young children will read this and cry. Older children will read this and think it is stupid.

Layer 2: Wit, satire, sly humor. This is what makes the series so fun to read. This is the layer most adults see, and this is the layer that makes them willing to traipse out to the store and buy the books for their kids. Some people (especially teenagers, it seems) won't appreciate the humor, and will therefore say that the books suck. However, this layer isn't entirely humor--there's also sly social commentary. The characters may seem totally unrealistic at face value (see layer 1), but on closer inspection, you realize they aren't! There are people who won't regard a thing children say. There are people who won't stand up for what they believe, no matter what's happening. There are people who have weak morals and will betray their friends simply because they are afraid. These are not traits we normally want to see in novels, and even less so in kid's books. But they are very, very realistic. Yet, to make all this palatable, Lemony Snicket tells his stories with a strong dose of humor and many laugh-out-loud belly laughs.

Layer 3: This is the layer most people miss. If you aren't paying close attention, you will miss this layer entirely. I myself didn't realize it was there until I had reread the series a few times. This is the deep psychological layer that is truly disturbing and sad. This is especially prevalent in the later books of the series. Examples of this layer include the Baudelaire's question about their own villainy, which eventually blurs the line between good and evil so much that the reader actually feels sorry for quite a few of the bad people (most of all--in books 12 and 13--Count Olaf himself). This is the layer that makes you realize just how lost and helpless the orphans are in a strange, unfamiliar world. This is the layer that makes you wonder if any of the people in VFD, including the "good" people and including the Baudelaire parents, are really noble at all, whether in intent or action. While young children cry at the superficial, face-value storyline, this is the part of the story that will make mature readers cry. This is the part that had me, a 16-year-old male, crying so hard at the end that I couldn't even see the words (no exaggeration!). The sad thing is, most people will miss this layer, so most people won't realize the true worth of the series.

In addition to these layers, this book is also very much like a jigsaw puzzle. There are many bits of information that we receive (especially in Lemony Snicket's narration, which most people find annoying because they can't see past the outward layer of storytelling) that don't seem to lead anywhere. However, if you spend enough time (especially in re-reads), you can make many connections between these scattered pieces. some of them not of great importance, but others highly fascinating. These little pieces are what helped me discover Beatrice's true identity before the end of the series. Knowing her identity, in turn, helped me realize many of Lemony Snicket's motives in documenting his research so faithfully. Anyone who enjoys puzzles will LOVE LOVE LOVE this series.

Good gracious, I could go on and on about "A Series of Unfortunate Events." I haven't named a fraction of the things I love about it. Yet if I list any more, I'm afraid I'll lose the readers attention! Let me sum up by saying that this series is far more complex that it first seems. This is a series for people who are willing to see past the surface and delve deeper into the mystery and the mania. If you think these books are "dumb" (a complaint I hear from many of my classmates), you have likely only skimmed them, and I highly urge you to give it another chance, this time with a more open mind and a willing brain.

Rating: a perfect 10/10. 11/10, if it were ever possible!

Review by namiteam (2006-11-18)
ok, lol, this series is great! GO READ IT ALL! Its about 3 orphans and 1 villain...and im pretty sure u can guess wat happens. Anyways, in each book, the orphans are in the care of another guardian, but Olaf continusly chases them around and tries to get ahold of their fortune (LOTS OF $$)

thx, SHinn

Review by i_luv_books (2005-06-16)
i think this book is a good book for younger kids like myself. it does get annoying when he interrupss to talk about a love one or a story about himself. if you are looking for a action/myesterous book than this the book. after you read the first book than it makes want you to read the next book and so on.

Review by mrdude (2005-02-15)
Normally I believe this book is intended for younger crowds but I found it quite entertaining as well as an insanely fast read. The book is a fairly straightforward story about the lives of three orphaned children. I found it comical and surprisingly witty considering the age group it is intended for. Overall a very enjoyable and light read.

(Review also posted at the IBDoF)

Review by Zacynthus (2004-10-16)
This book is an alright read. It is of course a childrens novel and must be taken as such. I'm just not very into these books. I find Count Olaf to be slightly too evil to be particularly believeable and Mr. Poe is simply too conveniently unhelpful. Children would probably enjoy but its not the kind of book adults can find hidden treasure in.

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