What is happiness? Does it exist? Is there any meaning to why we are here?  These are some of the answers the characters in Daniel Handler’s new book, We Are Pirates, seem to be seeking.

Gwen is an overly bright and bored 14 year old with annoying parents (redundant?) who gets caught shoplifting, more out of boredom and nihilism than anything else,  Her giving of a false name, Octavia, goes nowhere, and yes, her parents are called.  Her punishment, or redemption, is to be found volunteering in an old age home reading pirate novels to an Alzheimer’s patient.  She meets up with a like minded rebel without a cause, Amber and they decide to steal a boat in the San Francisco Bay with the elderly man and become pirates themselves, in the grand old style, kids playing life as a video game in a way, in order to find meaning, excitement, and some reason for doing, okay, anything.

Gwen’s father is a familiar character, a middle aged mild mannered dissatisfied man with a droning wife and an attraction to his younger, tippling assistant.  He too, would like more. He is forced into a desperate quest (desperate, but if Gwen should die, could he use her college fund to buy that car?) to get his daughter safely home.


Handler has brilliant one-liners and sudden twisted observations that startle the reader into realizing, that hey, this guy was Lemony Snicket,  but as for the answer as to whether there is a meaning for life here, well, it is left much more open ended than Camus’s final answer.

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