The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler


The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

'This is not some true-crime tell-all. This is my actual journal, with everything I wrote at the time, edited by me. The revisions are minor; I only changed things when I felt that I wasn't really thinking something that I wrote at the time, and probably would have thought something else. After all, I was only eighteen then.' Meet Flannery Culp, a world-weary high school senior. She is primed to taken on the few remaining obstacles that stand between her and the rest of her life: the SAT, college applications, the autumn term...Mercifully, there are a couple of distractions: her friends: Kate (the Queen Bee), Natasha (less like a high school student and more like an actress playing a high school student on TV), Gabriel (the kindest boy in the world and in love with Flan), Lily, Douglas, V - (her name has been deleted to protect her prominent family), and Jennifer Rose - the Basic Eight; and Adam State, a well-groomed, polite young man and the object of Flan's affections. If only things hadn't gotten out of control. If only Flan had stayed away from the absinthe. Then she wouldn't be a topic on daytime talk shows, or on the cover of tabloids, or incarcerated, or have time to edit her journals...The supremely talented Daniel Handler has perfectly captured the absurdity of school life in this wickedly funny, dark-as-can-be novel.


'The Basic Eight is both delicious entertainment and an unsettling statement on the irrationality of adolescence'

'Very funny and very sharp'

Returning from a summer in Italy, Flannery Culp begins the new school year with nothing more serious on her mind than starting up a new romance. Before the year is out she will stand trial for witchcraft, absinthe abuse and murder. Flan's troubles begin when, along with seven of her closest friends, she forms a High School clique called The Basic Eight. This exercise in adolescent peer group binding will eventually lead to a vengeful prank on a sexually voracious teacher that goes drastically wrong. Circumstancial evidence and the wilful misinterpretation of events by a sensation-hungry media serve to turn the Basic Eight from image conscious, high spirited teenagers into a sadistic, manipulative and murderous coven. Despite serving up all the ingredients of a taut psychological thriller, Handler uses the lightweight, jokey vehicle of teenage humour as Flan writes an open letter to her doctor's in an effort to put her side of the story on record. Bolstered by frequent film, TV and music references, some of which are real but most irritatingly bogus, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is just a slick, teen drama. The members of the Basic Eight themselves are straight out of the stock American High School cast book: the sensitive fat girl, the kooky but cool best friend, the sophisticated rich girl etc, and the approximation of standard juvenile humour and references grates after a while. So much so that the first half of the book is a perfect simile fot the society it chronicles; glib, superficial, self-absorbed and self- important. In the latter half, this mood shifts into darker, moodier and much weightier and more satisfying territory. As the tension and the body count increase, what has gone before becomes a sleight of hand that sets you up for the sucker punch finale which will leave you breathless at the author's audacity and your own slowness at not having figured it all out long ago. Review by GARY ORCHARD (Kirkus UK)

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Book Info


352 pages


Daniel Handler
More books by Daniel Handler


Publication date

10th May 2002



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