The Miserable Mill Review

ASOUE_4The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2000. 978-0064407694

Synopsis: When the Baudelaires are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, things begin to spiral downward quickly. Not only are they only allowed a stick of gum for lunch and paid in coupons they are unable to use, their guardian (whose name is apparently unpronounceable) seems to have little to no problem ignoring child labor laws. Plus, there is that mysterious structure on the main street that looks like an eerily familiar tattoo of a particularly monstrous villain….

Why I picked it up: The macabre humor seems to be growing on me.

Why I finished it: I don’t think I would still be four books into a series if I weren’t getting some sort of enjoyment out of it, but the notion of enjoying a series that highlights child abuse (among other things) still seems to be a bit uncomfortable to me. The macabre humor is definitely not for everyone, and I do feel somewhat better about my own life whenever I finish one of these books, which is probably part of the point. I don’t know of a reader that could claim their life is worse than that of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, but I digress. I appreciated the bit of irony of paying the lumbermill employees with coupons they are unable to use due to a lack of money and I was glad to see that there were at least a couple of characters that the children interact with that seem to be competent (gasp!). Mr. Poe is unfortunately still somewhat dull and aloof despite getting a promotion at the bank; probably part of the story, but I had hoped that perhaps we would see a little bit more character development – then again, there’s a few more books left to go in the series, so we’ll have to see. The books definitely give the intended audience a sense of empowerment, encouraging them to rely on their wits and come up with their own solutions to tricky problems much as the Baudelaires do, and for that, I have to give Snicket a lot of credit. Yes, children’s literature is supposed to convey some sort of subtle message to the reader and yes, the reader wants to be able to read about kids their own age having fabulous (or in this case, not so fabulous) adventures because it helps us relate to the rest of the world. The reader perhaps relates to Violet, Klaus, and Sunny because they feel ignored or stifled in some way and want to be able to show they are more than just whatever label they have been given. I’m starting to have more and more doubts about this having some sort of kind ending for our orphans, but perhaps I’ll be surprised.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

 

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