Review of We Are Pirates – Daniel Handler (Plus a preview via Audible)






We Are Pirates is a tale of a rebellious daughter, a group of people that have never really had a solid place in society and an old man that is losing his memory.

Gwen Needle is the fourteen year old daughter of Phil Needle – an ambitious, struggling radio producer who can’t even afford the condo his family lives in. Gwen is trouble. She steals things, she argues back and her mother finds her a handful. Amber is her new found best friend, a girl that can forge anyone’s hand writing and together with Errol – the old man who constantly reminds himself that he is senile by repeatedly asking ‘What’s that river?’ – they turn to piracy and turn San Francisco Bay on its head. Phil Needle, who has been dragged all the way to Los Angeles with his new attractive and hard-to-resist assistant by his radio consultant / production partner, Leonard Steed, cuts short the conference that is meant to give him and his radio career some sort of success to bring his nowhere-to-be-seen daughter back home.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book to be honest. I wanted to enjoy it, but it honestly felt too clunky, too clumsy and far too confusing to really have an opinion of. The plot was literally in off-charted waters at times. You didn’t really have a clue where the book was bound to head – if it was to head anywhere in particular at any given moment. I had to occasionally put the book down to just find some sort of clarity to understand what the heck was going on in this book.

As a huge fan of Lemony Snicket as a child, I wanted my first experience of reading Daniel Handler’s other work to be fun, exciting, wondrous… but it disappointed me. It isn’t necessarily an awful book but you feel throughout the whole of it – that you can’t really put your finger on how you feel about it. The first half of the book felt like I was a car stuck in mud. It felt so slow, so hard to even manage more than a few pages at a time of reading. The book took so long with building up everything that when it actually got to the more exciting parts that it felt like a quick flick in the face and then it was gone. Luckily, the book’s pace fastened up in the second half and I felt that I could get through it to the end.

The whole concept of the book had been promising. I had even strapped myself in for an adventurous and comedic tale of modern day pirates only left to be with something that was more similar to the mess my cat’s make every morning in the litter tray. As I said in the beginning of the review – the writing felt clunky, with Handler switching between the character’s POVs without many transitions between them. I couldn’t really connect to any of the characters. I felt distant towards them. I couldn’t really sympathise or empathise with any of them nor could I relate much to them.

I’m not going to put this book completely down as it did have some decent moments of action. There was a moment in the story, where things got a bit darker, that I actually found myself nearly gasping (in my brain at least) at what I was reading. When it got dark, it took you to the furthest point it could muster and then just like the Corsair – the ship in the novel – ran aground and then not much else happened apart from sitting in a bush. Which still probably sounds more exciting than my day-to-day life as it is.

This book just didn’t work for me. As much as I admire the man behind Lemony Snicket and the incredible writer he usually is – I just couldn’t get into the book. Of course, this book having been aimed at adults (just a note: this book is NOT for children, as straight from the off-set you are encountered with a rather colourful swear word) just didn’t appeal to me. I will give Daniel Handler’s work another try one day in the future, admittedly. I’m not put off by the fact that I just couldn’t simply enjoy this book.

I’ve given it a three star because it’s just one of those books that I can’t really have a proper opinion of. It leaves you feeling clueless as to how you actually think and feel about it. Perhaps other people would understand this book more than I do, but I just can’t comprehend it if I’m honest. I don’t know who I’d exactly recommend it to but if you’re an adult who wants to read a story about a spontaneous, dark and bloody pirate adventure with a group of people who just want to escape their normal lives, and with a few swear words splattered around then this might be just for you.

The above audio clip of We Are Pirates was provided free via Audible. We Are Pirates is also available as an audiobook.

I received an free ARC of this book through a GoodReads First Reads give-away in exchange for a completely honest review.  Also posted a review on GoodReads.


2 thoughts on “Review of We Are Pirates – Daniel Handler (Plus a preview via Audible)

    • Jane Emily says:

      Hahah, well to be honest……the Needles are pretty pathetic parents in this. Handler should’ve done a book on how to a better parent (based on the characters in this book) than a pirate if I’m honest :P


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