Lemony Snicket writes the scariest stories of all stories I’ve come across for young children, and you know what makes them scariest? They’re actually plausible. DUN DUN DUUUUN.
The Reptile Room is the second in his A Series of Unfortunate Events, and it relays the tale of three orphans, the Baudelaire children, and their hope for joy in life only to be squashed by woeful happenings. Snicket himself doesn’t hide this. In fact, he outright states it as the narrator multiple times.
In this particular book, the children are taken to a relative who is a herpetologist (reptile specialist), and keeps a reptile room in his house. Sounds safe, right? Well, it comes back to bite them (thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all night). In the end, who will be alive? Uncle Monty? The children? The reptiles?
You must read to find out, and I do suggest it.
If you want spoilers, well here goes:
The main plot twist here is instigated by the entrance of the terrible villain from the first book: Count Olaf. He has evil plans to get the fortune, surprise surprise.
But the Baudelaire children are ready to fight. In this book, they grow more and more, each of them gaining further confidence and skills in their war–for it is to be a war, not a battle–against the count.
The plot is intriguing and that’s great, but there is also a deeper emotional level to this book, and that has to do with the portrayal of the children’s processing of the death of their parents. They have switched from a happy life where they are encouraged to learn to an unhappy one where their learning is somewhat stifled (depending on who they are with). But they come to learn that happiness can be found in ways not before thought, as well as how to apply what they’ve learned, which is a skill in and of itself.
Overall, The Reptile Room gets a 4.5/5 stars. I look forward to watching the Baudelaire children continue to grow as I read the next book, The Wide Window.
Photo credit for cover: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5a/The_Reptile_Room_USA.PNG