Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: "The Basic Eight" by Daniel Handler



In reviewing Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, which I really did not like, I will try to keep in mind a notion I held onto throughout its 380 pages. Since Handler, known mainly for his children’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events under the nom de plume Lemony Snicket, I approach this book as if it were written for kids, or at least young adults whose parents are not buying them books anymore. But a lot of what is in this book, including sex scenes and curse words points to that not being the case. But it is the only way I can explain away how full of itself this book is, and how thoroughly unlikable and thinly drawn everyone is in this book. Nothing seems to ring true and everything is tinted with a thick layer of self-indulgence, that even when the book succeeds at being funny, it is very hard to ignore its pretentiousness. The story is made of the journal entries of a young girl named Flannery Culp, a member of “The Basic Eight” a group of smart, successful students at Roewer High School that are as annoying as they sound. We hear about the intricacies of this group, the past relationship between Flannery and Gabriel, and a thoroughly creepy biology teacher, but mainly Flannery’s crush on Adam State, which leads to a brutal murder on the eve of Halloween at a cast party for the school’s production of Macbeth. As I said the jokes are funny, especially the “would I” one, but they are very telegraphed and don’t come naturally, and despite a last second epilogue that brings everything into question, it is hard to get away from idea that this Handler being self-congratulatory about his time in high school. But when I judge it as a young adult book, I guess it is not so bad if you are into that genre, which I am not.
Rating: 3/5

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