e are Pirates is a weird little book, and comes to us from Daniel Handler, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. And if you think this is another YA book, perfect for that “gateway” panacea drug you parents are always searching for your children to become readers… no. Not this one. Grownups only, here. Trust me.
So Gwen Needle is the young, frustratedly confused daughter of Phil Needle, mid-life-crisis guy who is currently involved in television productions (and if there is any place where reality is shaped to meet popular demands, it is here). Gwen has just enacted her right-of-passage-into-troubled-teenhood – shoplifting, of course. Caught and released into the toxic atmosphere of her parent’s sick and failing relationship, she is “punished” by being sent to an old folks’ home to provide company and companionship for some of the older failing bulbs. And one Magoo, Errol, catches her attention. In his room he’s got pirate books by the shelfload. And these she reads. And suddenly the idea of becoming a pirate (even in San Francisco Bay, on a boat used for lame pirate shows) becomes an out for her. She can find her freedom from her classes, from the boy who rejected him, and, of course, from her parents.
And assembling a small band of pirates (or, in the historical sense, misfits) she beings her short yet colorful journey.
And my word of warning – if you think this is a YA book where everyone waves cutlasses that don’t bite, that people end up poorer but wiser, that people bungle to a laugh track and everything is just innocent hijinks, think again. There is blood on the deck, lots of blood. Pirates aren’t Disneytronics – they are murderous thugs, and released from the constraints that her father flails against, Gwen goes fully into it. Yes, the book is funny, but it is graphic, too. So don’t buy this book and have your children read it for you – grow a pair and read it for yourself.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was a good book, and I kept at it, even when the decks were red*.
* with Pizza.