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The Basic Eight

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  3,377 ratings  ·  439 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

Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 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
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
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.
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
Jan 14, 2014 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 19, 2007 Callie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Apr 27, 2007 Dennis rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
Aug 25, 2007 Lucía rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
Daniel Handler's first book is essentially a fusion of Heathers and Fight Club, a satirical murder novel told via the manipulated and annotated diary of Flannery Culp. Handler would later perfect his allusive, quirky, and dark style, writing as Lemony Snicket in his A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Basic Eight, however, fails to be anything more than an occasionally funny read with an unoriginal plotline. Culp is a ruthlessly unreliable narrator, somewhat haphazardly filling her diary with ex ...more
Adrianne Ambrose
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
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
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
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
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

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.
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.
Another book that would have gotten 5 stars if not for the weirdbad twist ending...
Kelly McCoy
The Basic Eight, a group of really smart, really quirky high school kids. Flannery Culp, currently in prison, is telling her story. The public knows her as the murdering, drug abusing teenager, who worships Satan. Well, Flannery plans to set them all straight once she publishes her diary which is filled with her teenage angst of being fat and in love with a boy she barely speaks to. The narrative is filled with satire which I found to be fresh and amusing. I also enjoyed Flannery’s vocabulary an ...more
Tina Cipolla
I really enjoyed The Basic Eight. This is the story of Flannery Culp and her high school friends in the first quarter of their senior year of high school. Flannery tells us the story from her prison cell several years past the events of the novel. I was very sympathetic to the characters and they all seemed realistic to me. There were some weaknesses in the plot though. The dinner parties were not believable; I cannot see high school kids throwing those dinner parties for themselves, and a lot h ...more

I don't even know what to say. Awesome though. I tend to like novels like this (high school craziness, playing with form). They way the students were portrayed as mini-adults (dinner parties with complex menus and wine pairings, and someone fixes poached eggs and coffee at one point) sort of pushed the bounds of my suspension of disbelief, but since the narrator is already established as unreliable, I went with it. I also figured out the twist a bit before I was supposed to (and I normally am no
Dennis D.
“The Basic Eight” is the debut novel from Daniel Handler, who has gone on to achieve much greater fame (at least so far) under his pseudonym, Lemony Snicket. It is a compelling story about the lives of a clique of bored, self-absorbed, too-smart San Francisco-area high school students.

“TBE” is told journal entry-style from the perspective of one Flannery Culp. We learn right off the bat that Flannery has been incarcerated for a heinous, headline-grabbing murder that somehow involved her and her
Mark Hamilton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jack Burnett
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
I really don't know how I found this book. It arrived through the door from Amazon Marketplace, and I'm guessing I might have found it through searching for 'novels like The Secret History' but I do not remember ordering it. However, it arrived on Monday, I started reading it on Wednesday and I finished it sitting outside a school I had just finished doing an observation in - i.e. rather than go home, I had to finish the book!

I loved this book - and I loved the tiny clues towards the untrustwort
Jared Crooks
Reviewing books--or anything, really--has lately struck me as an odd thing to do. Certainly, I understand why we do it: for one, nobody has enough time to go out and risk wasting their time reading/seeing/listening to something terrible or--what is worse--uninteresting. The clock insists (world without end, as Flannery would put it), and does so, well, insistently. So, that's the first reason. The second is--and this gets to the bedrock of things, I think, the sine qua non of the first reason it ...more
Amanda Pagano
“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
Little Read Writing Hood
Jul 29, 2013 Little Read Writing Hood rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lemony Snicket lovers
(follow the above link to Little Read Writing Hood and like the blog for many more reviews to come!)

The Basic Eight is a rare book in that the author makes no attempt to make the main character particularly likeable. The character, Flannery Culp, has her sympathetic moments, but she is a bit of an anomaly in terms of main characters, due to the fact that she is not written to be a likeable character. More to the point, she is not written to be a repugnant
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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
More about Daniel Handler...
Why We Broke Up Adverbs Y por eso rompimos - Episodio 1 Watch Your Mouth Y por eso rompimos - Episodio 2

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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.” 32 likes
“She gave me a hug and for a second I was embraced by a body that makes me want to go home and never eat again.” 10 likes
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