Review: We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 289
Source: Book provided by NetGalley for review



Mega-bestselling author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) gives us his long-awaited new novel for adult readers: a dark, rollicking, stunningly entertaining human comedy.

A boat has gone missing. Goods have been stolen. There is blood in the water. It is the twenty-first century and a crew of pirates is terrorizing the San Francisco Bay.

Phil is a husband, a father, a struggling radio producer, and the owner of a large condo with a view of the water. But he’d like to be a rebel and a fortune hunter.

Gwen is his daughter. She’s fourteen. She’s a student, a swimmer, and a best friend. But she’d like to be an adventurer and an outlaw.

Phil teams up with his young, attractive assistant. They head for the open road, attending a conference to seal a deal.

Gwen teams up with a new, fierce friend and some restless souls. They head for the open sea, stealing a boat to hunt for treasure.

We Are Pirates is a novel about our desperate searches for happiness and freedom, about our wild journeys beyond the boundaries of our ordinary lives.

Also, it’s about a teenage girl who pulls together a ragtag crew to commit mayhem in the San Francisco Bay, while her hapless father tries to get her home.


Review: I love the premise of this story – that a teenage girl steals a boat and becomes a pirate on San Francisco Bay. Having grown up there, I can see the appeal of boarding a boat and just sailing off into the horizon.

I was immediately drawn to Gwen, her alter ego, Octavia, and their teenage angst. Her parents embarrass her and her best friend steals the boy she likes. She soon finds a new friend and together they decide they need adventure, to find a place where their parents can’t tell them what to do. Gwen at times appeared cold and callous (“… it was better to leave blood than wish it had been spilt.”), at others she seemed motherly and nurturing, such as when she helped Errol pick raisins out of his cereal. This seems diametric for a character but it also represents a teenage girl more accurately than a lot of other authors seem to depict them.

Phil, Gwen’s father, was the typical teenage nightmare. He cared and wanted to be her friend. He made her toast with honey. Dear God, what was he thinking?!? But the moment he finds out she’s missing, he does everything he can to get back to San Francisco and find her. The thing I liked about Phil was that he seemed like a normal father. He had stress from his job and from money, trying to make his business partner happy and trying not to have inappropriate thoughts about his new assistant.

This book has several revelations that come forth, which I just loved. It’s like opening up a Cracker Jack box and pulling out the toy surprise (although by time I came around the toy was always a joke book). Some of these revelations are about the book or the storyline, but some of the revelations were a bit more personal, about me and my own psyche.

The first chapter of the book seemed a little off though. While it set up the story, it didn’t really have a place within the story. I did like the ending – it wasn’t quite what I expected, which is not always a bad thing. There is a motley crew of characters and I loved that Handler offered up small snippets of what happens to them after this book – because sometimes you just have to know.

Favorite Quote: “I was Singapored.”


“I knew it was a city …”