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The Basic Eight

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  4,885 Ratings  ·  602 Reviews
Flannery Culp wants you to know the whole story of her spectacularly awful senior year. Tyrants, perverts, tragic crushes, gossip, cruel jokes, and the hallucinatory effects of absinthe -- Flannery and the seven other friends in the Basic Eight have suffered through it all. But now, on tabloid television, they're calling Flannery a murderer, which is a total lie. It's true ...more
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 1999)
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mark monday
The "Basic Eight" are a group of teenage friends. Flannery Culp is our neurotic narrator. The novel is about love and murder and friendship in high school. This review of THE BASIC EIGHT features my very own Basic Eight (minus two or three) from Los Alamitos, Orange County. Photos circa 1988.




 photo jeff_zps10831543.jpg

On a technical level the novel is somewhat impressive, given that it is a first novel from a novice
Aug 21, 2010 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Karen may disagree with this theory, but I came up with it while reading The Basic Eight and I'll expound on it here. I was going write a second part to this review, but it was going to be chock full of spoilers, and I kind of hate spoilers. And some book reports.

This book is part of the Secret History tradition of contemporary literature. But, as the cover of this book would seem to allude to for anyone who grew up in the late eighties, it also points towards the movie Heathers. This book, Don
Aug 07, 2007 Clare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5questions
How do I love "The Basic Eight"? Let me count the ways. I love the delicious untrustworthiness of the narrator. I love the cheerfully horrifying violence. I love the snarky questions for the reader at the end of each chapter, textbook-style, that don't just remake the points but cleverly further the plot. I love the dizzying revelations at the end and I love the physical descriptions of the clothes, the disastrous party, the drunkenness. I think I'll go read it again right now.
Dec 08, 2011 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: multiple-reads, 2011, 2014
Well, damn, this book is smart. I'm not talking about the ending (I don't actually think all the mechanics work out perfectly) so much as Flannery herself, in all her glorious unreliable narrator-ness. The book is her diary, which she's editing for publication from prison - the treatment of time is beautifully messy and fun. You've got (1) traditional diary-style storytelling, (2) annotations at the original time of writing (i.e. Flannery giving her friend her journal instead of telling her a st ...more

So many people have compared this to Donna Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY, and definitely there are lots of similarities. In THE BASIC EIGHT, an exclusive group of friends who are super rich and pretty pretentiously into high culture enter their senior year of high school. There are crushes, drinking, drugs and teachers involved, and yes finally a murder (not a spoiler).

I love the whole unreliable-narrator-editing-her-own-diary-after-the-crime format and mode. It's been done a lot, but not
Jul 07, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: rhea
Before I read this, I thought it might be like the movie Heathers (not that I've seen it). But because I enjoy Handler's (and Lemony Snicket's) humor and morbidness and wit and his narrators being pedantic language snobs, I read it. It's his first novel for adults and despite this being about high school kids, it's definitely for adults (and maybe the oldest of teens).

I like the not-subtle-at-all skewering of pop-TV-psychologists, and the narrator's merging of the past of her journal entries wit
Rebecca McNutt
This book had me thinking back to the film Heathers (1988). Comedic, darkly surreal and utterly unforgettable, The Basic Eight is as lovable as it is morbid.
Heather *live on coffee & flowers*
A friend recommended this book to me, and while I usually trust and agree with her literary opinions, I hated this book so much. It was so pretentious (the narrator constantly corrected her sentences ending in a preposition. for example. Just write it the right—correct—way in the first place!). I think it tried to be funny, but it was hard to tell, and it wasn't funny anyway. There were digs at the reader's intelligence and ejaculations of "Dear reader!" (that only works in like, classic novels) ...more
Mar 07, 2015 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
seriously what the actual fuck
Aug 25, 2007 Lucía rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1990s LHS graduates who really, really enjoy inside jokes
Poorly written, thinly-veiled satire of my high school. A friend claimed that this was brilliant, so I slogged through it.
Jul 11, 2007 Callie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of coming of age/high school clique genre
So if I had read this in high school I can guarantee you it would have been my favorite book at the time. It is an incredibly mean spirited high school drama with a sick twist, revolving around a clique of outcast/precocious/uppity/self-involved intellectuals, much like myself (or the self I thought of myself as) in high school. I can see myself at 15, reading The Basic Eight outside a coffee shop, listening to the dead milkmen on my walk-man and smoking clove cigarettes... oh so very cool. It's ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Randee rated it liked it
This book, I see, is being compared to 'The Secret History' by Donna Tartt and 'Special Topics in Calamity Physics.' I disagree strongly. Both Ms. Tartt, especially Ms. Tartt, and Marisha Pessl are not only better writers, but they both are far superior in execution of a story.

Not that 'The Basic Eight' lacks merit. I found it to be an interesting read. My complaints are two-fold. I thought the execution was rather clumsy. I think if this had been a bit more streamlined, it would improve and ele
Oct 23, 2013 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a thoroughly enjoyable 4-star read to begin with. Fun characters, dark humor, deliciously written sentences. This kind of thing: "Natasha arrived, bearing cleavage and brie, and immediately fell into a squabble with Gabriel over how to bake it properly. Kate and I sat basking in the pretentiousness of it all."

It's so self-aware it's ALMOST annoying, except that it rings so completely true. Apparently the author drew quite a bit from his own San Francisco high school experience, wh
Apr 27, 2007 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Precocious teenagers, misanthropes, absinthe lovers
It's obvious that this is a first novel. If you've read any of the Lemony Snicket books, you'll see where they came from. Despite its gimmicky plot, horribly precocious teenagers, and its overall grimness, I found myself entranced and enchanted about this book. The Basic Eight are who I wished I was in high school (hell, I wish I were like any of them now), and they're painted with an alternatingly endearing and maddening world-weary hopelessness but with just enough innocence to be likable.
Oct 30, 2011 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
It took me a little bit to get into this book, and after I got about half way I couldn’t put it down. It was intense, interesting, and dark. This book will blow your mind! While reading it, I couldn’t figure out just how it was going to end, and then when the ending came I realized that I knew the ending all along!
Landta. This book is doing things to my brain. I can’t think properly. I think I shouldn’t have read I am the Cheese right before this one.
Rated: PG-18, this book has it all. Sex, dru
Dec 03, 2013 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jan 06, 2008 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
This was fun to read, but not quite the most wonderful book you will read in your life, contrary to what many of the reviews on would like you to believe. If it is the most wonderful book you've ever read, might I suggest broadening your horizons?

On the plus side:

• The voice of the first-person narrator (and murderess), Flannery Culp, is irresistible - smart, irreverent, quirky (OK, maybe a little insane as well), and highly entertaining.
• Handler is a good writer, and knows how to
Jan 24, 2008 Faye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down. It's similar to The Secret History- high school clique, someone they murdered, you read to find out how on earth and why it happened. I've been reading mystery cozy after cozy and never care who did it or why, but this story intrigued me. And when Handler gets to that, he doesn't disappoint. I enjoyed the format of Flan's diary, and I actually feel like I spent the weekend back in high school (except I didn't murder anyone in high school).

Comments to skip if you h
Feb 02, 2014 Lara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, 2014

I wanted to give this 4 stars, but I couldn't? Don't get me wrong, I loved many many parts of it, Flannery's unreliable POV is one of the most hilarious I've read and the pretentiousness of the gang was amazing to me, and most importantly I thought the whole style/conceit of the book was incredibly engaging and creative. But when it was winding down to the end, Handler lost me during the pages and pages of describing the garden party - 99% of which was way too absurd for me to accept even aft
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
'May we generally be happy, generally be witty, generally be honest, but above all always be interesting.'

I've seen The Basic Eight described as Heathers meets The Secret History which fits this novel perfectly: it's messy, daring, genius. The main character was terrible; and that's part of why I loved it so much.

I had a few small issues with the narration sometimes, and I might lower my rating just, but overall this was so good.

(trigger warnings for (view spoiler)
Dec 31, 2007 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I finished this book I turned back to the beginning and read it again. I loved it. It has all the silliness of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but reworked for an older crowd. Yeah, I knew what the twist was going to be long before it was revealed, but the reveal was still great.
Oct 29, 2015 Brianna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book last night and I loved it!!!! The amazingness and whack of the whole book blew my mind and I don't know who's side I'm on and the ending was............ SO SURPRISING I neverrrrrr saw that coming!!! I encourage you to read it to find out what I'm talking about ;)
Yet another book I was drawn to because of comparisons with The Secret History, though in fact, it has a lot more in common with Special Topics in Calamity Physics - not least the fact that it has a somewhat annoying protagonist with a stupid name. Flannery Culp (!) is our narrator, and at the beginning we learn that a) she's in prison and b) her high-school friendship group, the Basic Eight, has become notorious. True to the usual form of this type of book, the story then flips back to the begi ...more
Jack Burnett
Aug 13, 2013 Jack Burnett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really dug this book, late as I was getting to read it. It’s not The Secret History, don’t listen to anybody who says it is. I loved The Secret History, but that was denser, more baroque and creepier than The Basic Eight. Plus, I read Secret History when I was younger (as did you, probably) and more impressionable. If The Secret History is the Dead Poets Society of high school murder novels, all elevating, meaningful, emotional and shit, The Basic Eight is, I don’t know, Brick, with more energ ...more
Aug 15, 2012 Anna rated it liked it
I'm glad there are a lot of people who can see similarities in this book with the 1989 movie Heathers, whether it would be the use of croquet in both mediums, the rich self-titled cliques that are Heathers and the Basic Eight, the narrator that shares Veronica Sawyer's subtle wit, sharp observance, and intelligence, or the murders that take the lives of people of the high school. I always thought I made outlandish comparisons, just so that when I talk about the book, I have some sort of ground t ...more
Feb 02, 2013 cuifen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is really an extraordinary book.

I can't remember the last time I had this much deliciously dark fun with a novel - and felt so thoroughly entertained while being constantly aware that I'm watching a deadly trainwreck spiral out of control. The writing is top-notch and very polished for a debut novel, the foreshadowing, the guns on the shelf pitched just right to keep me hooked, and the narration! I'm almost inclined to say that Flannery is the best unreliable narrator I have ever had the pl
Adrianne Ambrose
Feb 26, 2013 Adrianne Ambrose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tough book to rate and I'm really all over the place in how I feel about it. First of all, Daniel Handler did an excellent job with character development and managed to climb into the brain of a scattered high school girl in a way that most men (and quite frankly, a lot of women) couldn't.

I was riveted at first, then about 150 pages in got bored and thought I'd just jump ahead to the murder (this is not a spoiler, the back blurb mentions the murder). As I was looking for the murder, I
Jackie Mancini
Jun 04, 2015 Jackie Mancini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Wow. What can I even say? This book what an absolute wild ride from start to finish. First of all, I was surprised by how funny it it. But I guess I should have expected such incredible writing from the man behind Lemony Snicket and the Series of Unfortunate Events. I was also pretty impressed that Handler was able to create such a convincing female protagonist. I was completely fascinated by Flannery as an unreliable narrator and I'm pretty proud of myself for guessing the twist ending. Handler ...more
Amanda Pagano
Nov 05, 2011 Amanda Pagano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Basic Eight” is a satire that pokes fun at the high school experience through Flannery, the main character, by taking the regular hardships faced by teenage girls to the extreme with murder. English classes are hit the hardest for critique with study questions included for the reader within the story. Handler uses a diary style type of writing entrusting the reader with Flannery’s innermost thoughts on the events that occurred preceding her being accused of murder. By doing this he leaves t ...more
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Daniel Handler is the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs and, most recently, the Michael J. Printz Honor-winning Why We Broke Up, a collaboration with noted illustrator Maira Kalman. He also worked with Kalman on the book Girls Standing on Lawns and Hurry Up and Wait (May 2015). Under the name Lemony Snicket he has written the best-selling books series All The Wrong Qu ...more
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“I hadn't felt such disgust for a boy since the early days, when they'd tease girls on the playground, kicking us and throwing gravel and raising their voices in high screechy mockery. "They do that because they like you," all the adults said, grinning like pumpkins. We believed them, back then. Back then we thought it was true, and we were drawn toward all that meanness because it meant we were special, let them kick us, let them like us. We liked them back. But now it was turning out that our first instincts were right. Boys weren't mean because they liked you; it was because they were mean.” 54 likes
“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.” 26 likes
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