So I’m reading Lemony Snicket’s The Reptile Room , and I’m sort of wondering why I’m bothering with it. It’s pretty clear by now that I just don’t like kid-lit, and I didn’t even care that much for the first installment of this series, so why am I reading the sequel?
The boring actual answer is that I ran out of books to read on vacation, but the more interesting philosophical answer is that whenever there’s a type of book that’s insanely popular and gets good reviews from people with taste, I’m forced to assume that there’s something there that’s attracting people, and I’ll keep reading until I either find it, or manage to convince myself that it’s completely invisible to me. So in this sense, I read The Reptile Room for the same reason I read about a dozen Stephen King books back in junior high, despite not really liking any of them.
When it comes to Snicket, I see what people like. He’s not writing in the generic kid-lit voice that makes (for instance) Rowling’s books read exactly like every kids’ book ever written; he’s got his distinctive style, which manages to be legitimately funny at times — a definite rarity in the genre. Despite this, I still find myself shrugging at the book; it’s not bad, but the actively good moments are too rare to justify reading through the rest of the cotton-candy fluff. When it comes down to actual story-telling, the flat characters and obvious plotting obtrude too heavily and make the reader wonder if there’s not something else they could be doing.
As kid-lit goes, it’s good. But kid-lit doesn’t go very far.