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.”


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