WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler
Type: Adventure, Children’s
Basic Plot: The children are now growing closer to the conclusion to the chase between them and Count Olaf, but first they hope to figure some things out at Hotel Denouement.
Plot: 4/5 Well Done: This is probably one of my favorite books for two reasons. The first reason was because most of the living characters are all brought back or at least mentioned. Though most of them are the same, it is nice to see them again, even with their horrible personalities. The second reason is because the hotel is compared to a library, having nine floors based off the Dewey Decimal system. Out of all thirteen places the children go to, I believe this is my favorite.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: All of the books use the same style, this one being no different, using dramatic irony and defining words and phrases as you read.
Moral: 2/5 An Interesting Moral Dilemma: This book probably focuses the most on whether it is ok or not to do wrong things for the right reason. The author never gives a definite yes or no to this. We know that doing wrong is always wrong, no matter the reason, but as you see the Baudelaires tear their hair out in frustration about if what they are doing is ok or not we can learn a lesson. The Baudelaires are so confused about what is right and what is wrong and what they should do because they don’t have God in their life. The author of the series is an atheist, and though nothing in his books strongly points to this, this fact is probably the reason God is never really mentioned and the subject of “does the end justify the means” is brought up so much. Without God, or at least some unchanging moral code, a person is lost and confused, never knowing if what they are doing is truly right or wrong. The Baudelaires are an excellent example of this. They are told they are “noble enough,” and they tell this to their friends, but they aren’t noble enough. They try to excuse their wrongdoings by saying, “What else can we do?” but then turn around and scold others who use the same excuse. We can learn and teach our children just how confusing and lost we are without God to show us right and wrong. Unfortunately someone could look at this moral and also say that we are “noble enough” and that as long as we are doing it for the right reason, it is ok to do wrong things, but if you if your child is reading this, you can help guide them to not believe this.
Overall: 4/5 Well Done: Out of all of the books the author writes, this one is probably my favorite. I definitely recommend it to boys and girls ten to eleven and older.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1/5 Suggestive: It mentions a girl is wearing a bikini made of lettuce. No pictures are shown. It is briefly mentioned by her husband to be “indecent.”
Violence: 2/5 Non-Detailed and Light Violence: Descriptions and examples are used that sound violent or have violent. A harpoon gun is dropped and shoots another man. A girl is poked in the eye and another one gets run into. A baby bites a woman’s hand.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 0/5 None
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Some Emotional and Lightly Disturbing Content: It mentions in the dedication that a woman has died. It is mentioned that people died in previous books. An opera is mentioned and it describes some of the violent and traumatic things that happen in it. It does not go into detail about the events. It is mentioned that Snow White dies from a fever and that a forest burnt down. It is mentioned that a woman once broke her finger. A figurehead of a boat has an octopus stuck to a man’s helmet, and it is described as “attacking.” The picture is shown, though it is not close up or seem disturbing in any way. A man wants to poison people with a fungus, but doesn’t. Some children and a man burn a hotel down, and it is suggested that many people die in it.
Religious Issues: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: There is brief mention of several different religious buildings such as shrines, temples, mosque, monastery, and synagogue and the brief mention of a rabbi. A knot called the Devil’s Knot is mentioned.
Magic: ½/5 “Magical” is used as a description. Unicorns are referred to.
Others: There is a picture of a man dressed in a maid’s costume as a disguise, and another picture that suggests a woman was disguised as a man. Opium is briefly mentioned. Cigarettes and cigars are both mentioned. One man smokes so much that the smoke covers his face. A cocktail party is mentioned throughout the book. It is mentioned the different ways a certain woman may be related to the reader, and mentions “or even your husband” as a possibility.
Overall: 2/5 Child Appropriate: The death and suggested deaths of characters makes it recommendable for children ten to twelve and older. The most objectionable thing would probably be the brief reference that a woman could be a husband, though since this was written in a time when homosexuality and transgenderism was not really accepted (especially the latter), it is very possible that it was not meant the way that some people may take it. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t meant in a bad way, it just means that there is a good chance that it didn’t mean any harm.
Here is a link to the thirteenth review: