The Basic Eight

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
Daniel Handler
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Nov 7, 2022

Flannery Culp, high school student and murderess, is going into her senior
year, and she’s got a huge crush on the student choir leader, Adam State.
She writes him letter after letter, but never knows how he truly feels.
Other than Adam, Flannery is also dealing with other unwanted attention.
Meanwhile, her endearingly pretensious group of friends are having
troubles of their own, and Flannery gets entangled in quite a few of them.
I didn’t love the book at first. The beginning is kind of slow, and it
takes a while to get attached to the characters, but by the end I was
hooked. It left me with the biggest feeling of emptiness -- in the best
way possible.

The juxtaposition of the lighter and darker subjects was really
interesting. One moment, Flannery is kissing a boy, the next, she’s
monologuing about how someone looks less and less human as they’re dying.
The tone is consistent all the while, but it treats its darker subjects --
mental illness, sexual harrassment, etc -- with respect. None of it feels
cheap or shoeholed in.

And the funny parts of the book are *really* funny. Some of the jokes call
back to earlier in the book, and many of them take a while to get, but
once you do, it’s the best feeling. Flannery’s writing style and the way
she sees the world is wonderful, too. One of the best examples of an
unreliable narrator I’ve ever seen.

The climax and the ending were my favorite part of the book. I found
myself guessing how it would end, and I was still surprised. My first
thought after I finished was, “okay, and now I need to read this again.”
So many intense moments, and it’s really fun watching as all the
characters and their relationships develop.

But the highlight of this book for me was Flannery’s best friend, Natasha
Hyatt. She’s confident, gorgeous, caring, and a unique combination of
being both comforting and terrifying. With her motto of “do something”,
you’ll never know what she’ll do next -- all for Flannery’s sake, of

Great book, funny and suspenseful and sweet and sad all at the same time,
and still relevant today. :) Here’s my favorite line from the book:

“She had the look in her eye when you kick and kick at the door and it
doesn't open, when you write a boy letters and letters and he never loves
you, not ‘til the day he dies. Not even then.”


Written by

Browse by Tag