21 March 2014
The Basic 8 is one of those books I wish I’d read in high school. I mean, half a decade later it’s still amazing, I just know though, that especially at that age The Basic 8 would have sent me spinning, would have blown my mind, would have been an utter gift.
Let’s be honest: Daniel Handler is a gift. And if asked to prove it, The Basic 8 could easily be my Exhibit A.
Daniel Handler’s The Basic 8 is the story of Flannery Culp, a senior in high school (finally) with a hopeless crush on (of all people) Adam State (I know, right?), and a member of the deliciously eclectic posse, The Basic 8. And let’s be fair, Flannery’s senior year gets off to quite the rocky start. There are overlapping love triangles, teachers crossing all sorts of terrible lines, absinthe-induced hallucinations, fraught dinner parties, and crushing disappointments (never mind the regular stress of high school). So it’s no surprise that by the time Halloween rolls around Flannery Culp is just ready to murder someone.
Handler’s The Basic 8 is funny, sweet, tenderly (appropriately) angsty, and heartfelt. And yes, there’s homicide. Flannery Culp, recounting the horrors of her senior year from an institution, also does us the honor of including pertinent vocabulary words and discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
This book is an engrossing, hilarious, and touching joy to read. Our narrator, Flannery Culp, has the kind of wit, the outrageous group of friends, and the bravado you remember both having and yearning for in high school. She is a tour de force. Flan is the best female first person narrative (maybe tied with Talulla) written by a man I have ever read, and certainly the best teen girl by far. And Flan honest-to-goodness has an important feminist moment, I think (while menacingly holding a croquet mallet. It’s glorious). I love this book. And I love Flannery Culp.
The Basic 8 has the bite, humor, and the bulls eye instinct of Heathers, but it has an honesty and empathy about teen angst—a sort of gentle rawness (not unlike an open wound)—that puts it in a class all by itself.
Not that it’s all angst. Flannery Culp would be appalled at the thought and you would never be invited to a dinner party with The Basic 8 again. Honestly.
And you would never want to miss a dinner party hosted by The Basic 8.
And yes, this is one of those books that I delightedly—hysterically, awkwardly cracking myself up in the process (sorry y’all)—quote to people. I attempt to convert people to this book. Because it is great. Because it is fun and smart and gorgeously exciting.
Read The Basic 8.