TV Review: Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixThe first season of the new Netflix show, “Series of Unfortunate Events” was released! I will be reviewing the season as well as comparing it to the books, however I will let you know when I will delve into the spoiler sections.

Firstly, I would like to say that when I first heard that Neil Patrick Harris was going to play Count Olaf, I was a little nervous. Excitingly however, I think he did a great job portraying him, as he and the character are theatrical. Of the Baudelaire children I believe that Louis Hynes (the boy who plays Klaus) best portrays the character as it is in the book series, however I do like them all. The sets of Count Olaf’s house, Uncle Monty’s House, and Aunt Josephine’s house were all exactly how I had pictured them. Count Olaf’s troop characters including the Hook Handed Man and the Powder Face sisters were all there, as well as a few new characters that have added a more diverse dynamic. The format of doing two episodes to encompass each book worked out quite well. The base plot of the novels was consistent with the series, although there were minor changes and perspectives from other characters which was interesting to see. And as a fan of the books, I was delighted to see that Lemony Snicket’s narration of the series and character was included, as he has monologues directed towards the audience. I am happy to see that the creators did not shy away from the woeful darkness the story has, and embraced it instead.

This next section will be a SPOILER for the season, so if you haven’t watched it yet please go watch!

The biggest plot twist of the season, book fans didn’t expect this either, was the long running subplot of the Baudelaire parents trying to get home to their children. At first I was upset that the creators had the parents remain alive, but then came to terms with the notion that perhaps the creators would kill off the parents before the children ever knew they survived the fire. This concept was actually a theory of the book fans, in which the Baudelaire parents actually survived, but the children never knew, and they did not get reunited. However, as we know from the twist in the finale, the “parents” that were shown were not Baudelaires after all, but Quagmires. I loved that the creators made us believe they were the children’s parents, and in the end show us that they had never specified they were Baudelaires. This creates a smart introduction to the Quagmire twins/triplets, as we already know their backstory. It is a great use of the omniscient perspective that book readers didn’t get to see, creating exciting new details for book readers, without changing the plot. And lets not forget that ending musical scene! If someone had told me beforehand that they would be singing at the end, I would not be happy about it, but it really flowed in an odd and mystical sort of way.

So what did you guys think about the adaptation? Let me know!

-Ava K., 12th grade

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

allquiet_erichremarqueSet deep in World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front follows young German recruit Paul Baumer as he details his wartime experiences from signing up for the war with his graduating class to fighting in the trenches of the unforgiving Western Front. The war novel was written by German war veteran Erich Maria Remarque, and was published in 1929 to the dismay of the Nazi regime. It tackles ideas of loss, hope, adolescence and growth, and provides an in-depth look in the human condition.

One thing I noticed right away was Remarque’s uncanny ability to describe the setting at which the book was taking place, whether at a training camp, the Western Front, or Paul’s hometown in Germany. The author detailed descriptions of the hardships in the trenches, from the gnawing rats to the constant pounding of shells above, is so well written that you can’t help but get immersed into the setting.

The characterization is also very well done in this novel. You get a good feel for the camaraderie between the characters in war, and how important that is to survive in such a harsh setting. Remarque also introduces the various characters very distinctly so confusion wouldn’t be an issue. He lists certain traits they have at first, then elaborates and expands on those traits as the story goes on and different events take place. A few examples include:

  • Katczinsky- the oldest of the group, a crafty man who is a master at finding food and supplies
  • Tjaden- a defiant young man who loves to eat yet is somehow incredibly skinny
  • Detering- a peat digger who misses his life at home, works well with animals

The characters all interact with each other in a realistic, believable manner for the time and dialogue is heavy with dialect and references. The character development is great, and is one of the major themes of the story. The impact of the war on the soldiers is apparent and is shown subtly through differences in actions and speech.

I felt that the pacing of the story was excellent for the most part as well. The story starts o ff near the battlefield, then switches between the trenches, training camps, or in other locations far from war. This keeps the setting fresh and doesn’t drag on in one specific location for too long, except the hospital chapter where I felt it was dragged on for a little too long.

The effect of the war on the soldier is a huge theme. Men in war lose all identity and the futures of the young recruits are ruined. PTSD plays a role along with various coping strategies and defense mechanisms soldiers use to compensate for the horrors of war.

Because of these, the story has a lot of dark and mature themes, coupled with explicit violence that makes this a story that none under the age of 13 should be allowed to read.  For anyone else though, this is a phenomenal war novel that analyzes human race as a whole, I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an insightful, historical novel.

-Ahmed Hussaini, 11th grade

All Quiet on the Western Front is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Axis360

Paper Towns by John Green

papertowns_johngreenMargo Roth Spiegelman is an independent young woman who makes her own rules in the game of life. She goes with her own ideas and does not take orders from anybody, including her parents. She always plays games with people, running away whenever she pleases and leaving clues for people to find her. It is all a part of this little game she plays with everyone she cares about, making them scared as she has fun. She is so determined to live by herself, the way she wants, so when she runs away again, it doesn’t scare her parents. It just annoys them to the point where they don’t care if she comes back. It’s when she goes missing for more than a few days that everyone starts to think she is not coming back. Her old friend from when they were kids, Quentin, tries to get into the life of Margo. He tries to think like she would in order to find her and get her back, before it is too late.

When I first found out about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. The storyline seemed so interesting to me, that a girl who runs away leaves clues for people to find her. But when I actually started reading it, my high hopes for the book weren’t met. All of the clues Q had to follow to find Margo were very confusing. As the reader, I was very confused and couldn’t figure out how the clues added up to finding her. It was all very complex, and sometimes that’s good when you’re reading a book, to have it be a little confusing to make you think. But this book was so confusing and difficult to read. I wanted to put the book down because it was too hard to think about everything while still trying to enjoy the story. I have heard of other readers loving this book, hanging onto every detail. In the end, it’s just a matter of opinion. Mine may not be the popular opinion, but this is what I thought of it. If you like mystery and adventure, you should definitely try to read this book. While some parts were confusing, some were also pretty funny and meaningful. One of my favorite quotes I will always remember is “she loved mysteries so much she became one”. John Green is a mysterious writer himself, so I do still look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

-Sabrina C., 10th Grade

Paper Towns is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360