"When Did You See Her Last?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 2

Common Sense Media says

More playful sequel, even as menace and mystery build.

Age(i)

2
3
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5
6
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8
9
10
11
12
13
14
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16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn a few things about invisible ink and the drug laudanum. Lots of sophisticated vocabulary here (usually explained), including "fortuitous," "auspicious," "opportune," "asinine," "kismet," "intimidating," "endocrinology," "shackle," teetotaler," "dilemma," and "defenestration," to name a few. There are mentions of the plots of numerous classic books; some kids will be able to figure out which books the characters are referring to. Snicket goes to the library to look in some reference books to help him solve the case, which may inspire kids to use the library for research, too.

Positive messages

Things aren't always what they seem. Follow your intuition when something doesn't seem right. Don't give up. Trust your instincts and think things through to solve tricky problems. Snicket learned in his training: "Do the scary thing first, and get scared later." Also: "No reality has the power to dispel a dream." 

Positive role models

Snicket is brave, kind, smart, witty, dedicated, and determined and he thinks through situations to get to the bottom of them. He's a creative thinker and problem solver with a sly sense of humor. He also shows a sensitive side: He's worried about his sister "in a tunnel underneath the city" and seems to have feelings for the intriguing Ellington Feint, "a girl with strange, curved eyebrows like question marks, and green eyes, and a smile that might have meant anything." Reporter Moxie Mallahan is a solid friend Snicket can count on who helps him crack the case and backs him up when things get hairy. Cleo Knight is a brilliant young chemist adults depend on -- a good role model for girls with an interest in science.

Violence

There are a couple of very suspenseful scenes, but overall this installment seems somewhat less full of dread and menace as Book 1; there are more lighthearted moments. Still, a girl's parents are drugged with laudanum to keep them quiet and unaware; a girl is imprisoned and chained up (though readers don't see her in shackles, only with bruises caused by them); a man is held prisoner; a girl is stabbed in the arm with a knife (but readers see her only after the injury is inflicted); a car crashes into a building; and there's a mention of a man who suffered terrible burns in an explosion years before.  

Sex

It's revealed that two young charcters are "sweethearts" who are devoted to each other.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A bad guy drugs a girl's parents with laudanum to incapacitate them. A woman drinks champagne to celebrate, and it's implied she gets drunk. In one scene, a man has a glass of wine on a table -- a clue that helps Snicket know who the bad guy is.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that When Did You See Her Last? is the second book in the four-part All the Wrong Questions noir mystery series by Lemony Snicket, author of the 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events -- and alter ego of author Daniel Handler. This sequel is just as clever and suspenseful as Book 1, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, and the 12-year-old Snicket is even funnier and more playful in his dealings with the kids and adults in the strange town of Stain'd-by-the Sea. There's more menace than actual violence, but a girl is imprisoned and chained up (readers only see the bruises from her shackles once she's free); a girl is stabbed in the arm with a knife (readers see her only after the injury is inflicted); a car crashes into a building; and it's mentioned that a man suffered terrible burns from an explosion years before. A girl's parents are drugged with laudanum to incapacitate them, and one adult celebrates with champagne and another has a glass of wine, although neither is shown drinking. Readers learn two young characters are "sweethearts." 

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What's the story?

The action picks up just where it left off in Who Could That Be at This Hour? Twelve-year-old Lemony Snicket is still in the strange, dilapidated town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, staying at the Lost Arms with his ditzy chaperone, S. Theodora Markson. They're hired to solve a new case: find the missing Cleo Knight, a young chemist who's working on a secret project -- but for whom? Things get confusing fast as she's sighted in different places at the same time. Theodora's quick to call the case closed, but Snicket is always several steps ahead of her as well as the town's bumbling police officers. He's constantly gathering clues and connecting the dots, which all lead back to the same evil man behind the trouble in the first book: Hangfire.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

WHEN DID YOU SEE HER LAST? is just as clever, entertaining, and full of mystery and wordplay as the series starter, Who Could That Be at This Hour? But here Snicket and readers get to know the kooky Stain'd-by-the-Sea residents better, learn about some of their relationships (including two young sweethearts), and learn more about the town's history and old feuds. There's also more playful interplay between Snicket and the kids and adults he encounters. With wry wit, he constantly foils the bickering husband-and-wife police officers, outsmarts his chaperone, figures out the deeper mystery behind the many bizarre developments, and makes friends along the way.

Amid the laughs, twists, and turns, the tension and danger mount, leading to a dramatic conclusion that simultaneously satisfies and sets the stage for the continued pursuit of a major bad guy. Also, there's still much to learn about the trouble Snicket's sister is in back in the city -- a mystery that weighs on him throughout the book and about which readers get only a few hints. Stylized illustrations by Seth once again add intrigue.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about mysteries. Why are they so popular with kids and grown-ups alike? What are some of your favorite mysteries you've read?

  • How does Lemony Snicket know the case is not solved when his chaperone thinks it is? What clues does he see that she misses?

  • How does When Did You See Her Last? compare with the first book in the All the Wrong Questions series, Who Could That Be at This Hour? Is it funnier? More mysterious?

Book details

Author:Lemony Snicket
Illustrator:Seth
Genre:Mystery
Topics:Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:October 15, 2013
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8 - 12
Read alone:8 - 12
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of "When Did You See Her Last?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 2 was written by

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