Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

Flannery Culp is starting her senior year.  She has seven wonderful friend and one huge crush on Adam Slate.  But Adam doesn't seem interested, Flan's science teacher is harassing her, she's constantly cutting school, drinking absinthe...and Adam Slate is going to be killed on October 31st.  And one of the Basic Eight is going to do it.

It was certainly interesting to read.  It does not take the reader very long to figure out we're dealing with an unreliable narrator.  At the beginning, Flan explains that she's rewriting her journal for publication.  But the past and present get mixed together.  Flan is clearly adding things in after the fact, sometimes it seems like something is part of the "original" journal but there's no way she could have know it at the time.  She also admits to adding things in to "introduce" characters and the like.  So there's no way to tell what's from the past when she was actually experiencing these things, and what's been added in later.

Flan also seems to mix things up sometimes, but again, we don't know if she's mixing things up now or if she was mixing things up then. There's no way to tell.


Sorry, there's no way to talk about this next part without giving away the dramatic twist at the end.  Natasha, beautiful, strong Natasha who Flan was closest too above all others, was in fact all in her head.  Natasha doesn't exist.  This reveal, however, didn't come with the "OH" you might have expected.  It was more of a "huh."  You know in The Sixth Sense at the end of the movie when you suddenly realize he's been dead all along?  And you go back and see that, whoa, he didn't actually interact with anyone else?  The clues were there the whole time!  If only we had seen!  It wasn't like that.  Because all the other characters interacted with Natasha.  They called her by name.  So there wasn't any clever set up that was there to point to Natasha not being real.  Not really.

There were some clues.  As things got worse and worse, Natasha showed up less and less often.  There were some mentions of some saying "us two" when Natasha was suppose to be there as well.  But you didn't get to have that moment of "OH" because it hadn't been set up that way.  So it was kind of anti climatic, I found.  It was just, "Huh.  Guess she's crazy."  It wasn't clear if that meant that everything that Natasha had done Flan had actually done, or if it was all totally made up.  Since this is all coming from Flan's journal, we have no way of knowing.  She could have invented anything she wanted and we only have her word to go on.

The book ended suddenly after the reveal.  We don't really know what happened.  Where's Flan?  Jail?  A hospital?  Where are the others?  The assisted a murder, there's no way they could have just gotten off.  The only thing we know about any of them is that Kate is "serving a four year sentence at Yale."  That's odd.

Although I found the book interesting, and did what to know what happened, it took me a while to get through it.  It just wasn't a page-turner for me.  Definitely a good read though.  Read it for the unique framing device if nothing else.

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