Posts Tagged ‘Dark humor’

If you have read my other reviews you probably will have already noticed where that when it comes to genres, I have a clear preference for Fantasy and Science Fiction, none of which would encompass a book such as The Basic Eight. Since I had already read other books written by this author and I learned about this one novel in a friend’s blog, who named it her top book for 2013, I decided to give it a try.

This blog will be centered in Fantasy and science fiction novels but I feel I want to make an exception in this case because I find in The Basic Eight a really interesting story.


Strong points: The development, the characters, the writing style

Weak points: the first half of the book is slow and sometimes boring

The Basic Eight was the debut novel of Daniel Handler, who you may know as Lemony Snicket. The book tells us the story of Flannery Culp, a twenty year old girl who finds herself in prison for murder, a charge that she freely admits she is guilty of. During the novel, Flannery narrates us the events of her senior year in high school and her daily interactions with her seven friends, her love for fellow senior Adam State and her misadventures with her biology teacher, and how all this finally drives her to commit the bloody deed.

The strongest point that we find in this book is, in my opinión, the magnificent development of the narrative and its characters. We have before us a fluid storyline which flows uninterrupted from the beginning to the end. While it starts slow its pace becomes faster and faster as we arrive to the climatic murder. The world around us becomes chaotic and darker going from the almost normal high school we are introduced to at the beginning of the novel to a place ruled by a twirling of raw emotions.

The development of the characters is not less perfect, especially Flannery’s. From the very beginning of the novel we can rapidly appreciate the difference between Pre-murder Flannery, a seemingly normal girl full of questions and emotions, and post-murder Flannery, much more cynical and colder. We are automatically entrap for this contrast we are presented with right at the start of the book and are witness to the deliciously detailed transformation that occurs between this two opposite poles. As Flannery changes so does her view of those that surround her, and while some of the characters are subjected to their own evolution, specially the rest of the Basic Eight, it is this change in the main character’s vision that moves her universe and permits the rest of the characters to develop with it. This original way of telling the story is what really makes this novel feel alive and realistic. Daniel Handler has certainly triumphed when it comes to show us the variable world of High School from the racing mind of a young girl.

In The Basic Eight every tiny detail matters, every small line will have repercussions and each character has a reason to be there, representing a unique input of the story that allows for it perfect developing. Every character is created taking care of every tiny detail, going further than just being a literary being and making us feel as if we were reading about real people. Some of the character took me back to my own High School experience reminding me of the people I shared those especial years with. Everyone, from Flannery’s close friend Natasha to the Calculus teacher Mr. Baker, has their own distinct personality and fulfills their own function inside the story.

The writing style surprises for its skill to submerge the reader into Flannery’s mood and state of mind. The writer adapts his style to the situation using it as another tool that allows him to hold the reader’s attention. The style in the Halloween party, so confusing and blurry, offers us a deep contrast with the much more detailed description of the classes we find at the very beginning of the book. When Flannery abuses alcohol or drugs the details disappear, throwing us into chaos as the main character tries to understand what is going on around her.

Sadly, the level of interest this book awakes in the reader varies depending of which part you are reading. The first half of the novel is slow and rapidly makes the reader impatient as he or she struggles forward with the hope that its pace will pick up soon. It does eventually, and the last pages will keep you awake at night as the climax starts building and we are witness of a completely unexpected final twist. But the first half of the book becomes uninteresting very quickly and turns heavy and tiresome as nothing happens. This is possibly the bigger downer of this book which otherwise was a great read.

I personally have mixed feeling about The Basic Eight. On one hand it is a beautiful story with a complex style that shows us the domain of the writer over the English language, it introduces a group of complex and delightful characters which are a treat to read and its development is masterful, but on the other hand I struggled through its first half, which left me with the feeling that nothing really happened in those two hundred pages. It is a book I would recommend to people who enjoy a good satire about the society we are living in and for young adults who might want to read a novel were the writer doesn’t treat high school students as overgrown children, but as complex people who are coming to terms with the reality they live in.


¡Hasta la próxima!