"Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 4

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
"Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Friends, villain clash on speeding train in gripping finale.

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Kids say

age 9+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

References to real books and authors, including The Turn of the Screw, Beverly Cleary, and Giacomo Casanova, as well as artist Marcel Duchamp. Some readers will recognize that the question in the title is the same question asked at Passover seder supper. The story reveals some things about human nature, such as that people will do anything to save the ones they love.

Positive Messages

Seek the truth. Be careful whom you trust. Trust your friends; be loyal to them and protective of them. Villainy "is like a bad guest. If it accepts your invitation, it leaves a terrible mess everywhere you look." Don't get scared now; get scared later. People sometimes do the work of bad guys when trying to save their loved ones.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lemony Snicket is dedicated to his friends, his sister, and his associates in the V.F.D., the secret organization of which he's an apprentice. He defends and tries to rescue his goofy chaperone. And he shows remorse and discomfort at having to resort to violence to defeat evil. His young associates from the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea are creative problem-solvers who are loyal to Snicket. Hangfire is evil and unrepentant.

Violence

In a harrowing scene, a boy clings to the outside of a speeding train. There are two violent deaths: A murder occurs offstage, but characters find the body marked by a bloody stain; the other death happens in a gripping, action-packed scene that's described as it unfolds, but there's no blood. A monstrous creature gets loose and wreaks havoc. Passengers are shaken up as train cars derail.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lemony Snicket's "Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?" is the fourth and final book in the All the Wrong Questions noir mystery series set in the strange, faded town of Stain'd-by-the Sea and starring the "almost 13-year-old" Snicket. Readers finally find out who Hangfire is and how characters and plot threads from books 1 through 3 connect. It's a satisfying, if shocking in some ways, conclusion that will surely leave readers wanting more young-Snicket mysteries. There are two violent deaths: One murder occurs offstage, but characters find the body marked by a bloody stain; the other death happens in a gripping, action-packed scene that's described, but there's no blood. And there's a scene where a kid appears to have been killed but isn't dead. A scary, monstrous creature gets loose, and passengers are shaken up when train cars derail.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old February 19, 2018

Amazing

One of the best

What's the story?

Young apprentice investigator Lemony Snicket is determined to unmask the evil Hangfire, put an end to his murderous deeds, and save the town of Stain'd-by-the Sea once and for all -- but time is running out: He learns that Hangfire will be on a train out of town and vows to be on it (even though he has no money to buy a ticket) to confront him and solve the mystery of the Bombinating Beast. His associates and many of the town's denizens from the first three books end up on the train, too, including his ditsy chaperone; bumbling police officers Mimi and Harvey Mitchum and their rotten son, Stew; librarian Dashiell Qwerty; and the mysterious Ellington Feint. Can Snicket figure out who connects to Hangfire and end the villain's reign of terror before the train reaches the city? And will he ever see his sister, Kit, again? 

Is it any good?

Like a nail-biting Agatha Christie mystery, this volume gathers all the suspects, schemers, and investigators in one place -- a speeding train -- to expose the murderer. Readers finally learn who  Hangfire is, how the various plot threads connect, and see what Snicket is really made of. Two violent deaths make this installment darker and heavier than the others, adding a level of moral ambiguity to both the story and the Snicket character that kids may not be expecting. It's not all dazzling wordplay, sly humor, and savvy crime-solving this time; real life-and-death choices get made.

The writing, as always, is the real star, with fun and clever descriptions ("her hair lay sprawled on the pillow like a mop had jumped off the roof") as well as poignant expressions of self-doubt and regret ("I walked amongst them like a shadow, casting darkness over everyone I knew"). No word yet on whether young Snicket will be back to solve another mystery, but some situations remain unresolved, and Snicket does allow that "there was still work to be done," giving fans hope for more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mystery styles. What makes this a noir mystery?

  • Did you find this a satisfying conclusion to the series? What surprised you most about the way things turned out?

  • Would you like to see more mysteries starring the young Lemony Snicket? Do you think there'll be more?

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