18 January 2015
Book Review | We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
I really struggled to get through this one -- and, in fact, didn't. Finish it, I mean. The only reason I even tried to finish it is because it is only 280-something pages. But... nope.
Here's the thing: I've seen a few negative reviews that compare the author's Lemony Snicket works to this one. But how can that be fair? Those are fantastical books for kids. This is realistic fiction for adults. Apples and oranges. I'm starting to understand why J.K. Rowling chose to publish her grown-up books under pen names. People can't help but judge what someone has written in comparison to their previous works, no matter how silly the comparison is.
I bring this up because I haven't read the Lemony Snicket books. I have nothing to compare the author's latest offering to. And I still didn't like it.
A big, big part of what made me put We Are Pirates down, never to be picked up again, is the writing style. We're talking lots of short, chopped up sentences within rambling stream-of-consciousness-y paragraphs. I have never particularly loved this style of writing.
Here's a sample:
I don't know... if that quote looks appealing to you, maybe you'll enjoy this book?
I was also pretty regularly confused. Wait, who is our POV character right now? What is going on? What is the meaning of all this?!?! This is probably a failure of attention on my own part, but there you have it. The book was just not holding my attention.
Add to this the extremely self-centered, boring, petty characters and you have a recipe for a bad book. I'm not whining about how the characters are "unlikable" -- I mean, yeah, they are, but that's not the point. The point is that they aren't actually interesting.
Going with 2 stars instead of 1 because (a) despite my being bored by the characters, Handler really works hard to make the reader feel immersed in realistic, believable people's brains and (b) that 1 star thing is usually reserved for books I outright dislike, and I'm merely disappointed in this one.
It's really too bad, because I had very much been looking forward to reading this! The book was favorably reviewed in trade pubs (Kirkus calls it "affecting, lively, and expertly told" and the PW review actually uses the word "jaunty"). I loved the concept and the cover art and Daniel Handler has a pretty good reputation.
Maybe the exception to that good reputation is his distasteful joke at the expense of NBA winner Jacqueline Woodson this past December. I mean, Handler is obviously well-liked enough to have been invited to help host the event, but he definitely put his foot in his mouth and soured the occasion. I do think he apologized magnificently, though, with his massive donation to We Need Diverse Books, a group that supports writers of color and books featuring characters of color (and similarly underrepresented groups).
So in an effort to end this negative review on a positive note, I want to point y'all in the direction of We Need Diverse Books!
Handler, Daniel. We Are Pirates. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. EPUB file.
Provided by publisher via NetGalley.
I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.