Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by Kim on July 9, 2009 · 23 comments

disreputable historyTitle: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Author: E. Lockhart

Genre: YA fiction

Pages: 345 (hardcover)

Two Sentence Summary: Fifteen-year-old Frankie starts out the year with a new, awesome senior boyfriend. But pretty soon Frankie gets tired of being treated like a little girl and strikes back.

Two Sentence Review: This book is exactly the sort of YA book I’d want my daughter to read if I had one. There’s a lot of romance, but it also looks at much more interesting themes about how to stand up for yourself when you’re constantly being underestimated.

Grade: 93/100

Long Summary: Soon after Frankie Landau-Banks starts tenth grade, she gets asked out by senior Matt Livingston. While it’s awesome being Matt’s girlfriend, Frankie soon gets tired of the dynamic of his group of friends — she’s constantly just the girlfriend and can’t seem to make headway.

Frankie discovers that Matt and the other boys are part of a secret society at their private high school. Using her wits and some luck, Frankie manages to secretly take over the club, sending directions for pranks via e-mail. She thinks this will get her some respect from Matt and his friends, but as her pranks get more and more elaborate and manipulative Frankie risks losing her friends and Matt for good.

Long Review: I asked some questions about this book for Weekly Geeks #22. There were a lot of them, so I’m going to just follow them for the rest of the review. Here we go!

Bart (Bart’s Bookshelf) asked: Everyone who I know who has read it, has enjoyed this book to the ‘nth degree. Did you enjoy the book and should I just keep it on the wishlist, or search out a copy, like RIGHT NOW!? :)

I think you should actively start looking for a copy of this book. I think it has all of the things a good YA book had — a great main character, a good plot, and an extra quirk that makes it special.

In this case, I think the extra quirk is the narrator. The book reads very much like an anthropological study, so the narrator gets to make a lot of jokes and commentary on what is happening. I loved that and thought it helped make the book something special.

Plus, there are a bunch of references to Bentham’s Panopticon which is about the most awesome thing ever.

Jennie (Biblio File) asked: In Battle of the Books, a reviewer (can’t remember who was reviewing that one) said that Frankie was about first love. Do you agree? Or did the reviewer miss the point?

I agree and disagree. Matt is Frankie’s first major boyfriend — the first boy you fall head over heels for. But really I think he’s just a device to explore bigger ideas about being yourself and being confident and finding your place when you’re constantly underestimated.

Without falling for Matt, Frankie wouldn’t have had to push herself to break into a club she wasn’t welcome in, nor would she have learned the things she did. But the story isn’t really about Frankie and Matt — it’s about Frankie figuring out how to deal with what she feels and how she responds.

By the end, I think Frankie learns more about herself than she does about love, but that’s just me. If I had a daughter, this is the sort of first love story that I’d want her to read because I think it’s about more than that.

Softdrink (Fizzy Thoughts) asked: Did you find any of the book over the top?

Not really. The concept stretches a little bit, but I didn’t find it unbelievable. Maybe I’m just willing to believe that private schools have secret underground tunnels and secret societies though :)

Kay (The Infinite Shelf ) asked: I read “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” and mostly liked it, but there’s been a lot of buzz about it and people often seem disappointed; were you?

I wasn’t at all, I was actually pleasantly surprised by it. The thing that bugs me about a lot of YA fiction is that everything works out in the end the way you want it too — there’s boy and girl trouble, but in the end they make up and are together and that’s that.

This book was not at all like that. There’s a moment when it could be, but then E. Lockhart takes it in a different direction. I can see how that might be disappointing, but I wasn’t at all. I thought this book was great.

Ali (Worducopia) asked: I heard from some teens that they felt Lockheart had the wrong idea about feminism. I mentioned their comments here and it led to an interesting reaction and discussion. Do you see Frankie as a good role model for girls? Do you think that her actions are too boy-focused to be truly feminist?

I just went over and read the comments on the post you’re referring to (and I think readers should too). I love the comment from a boy who said, “I saw this as a feminist book, and our generation isn’t about feminism, we’re about equality.”

I actually agree with that statement, interestingly enough. I’m only 23, so I missed most of the big feminist movement. I think the issue is that feminism get caricatured a lot into an idea that feminists think they deserve more than men. I know this isn’t true, but it’s a perception I think younger people have (I know I did).

So, in that way I guess I can see the criticism of the book — Frankie is too centered on getting into the boys club when she should be making her own. The problem is that I’ve found sometimes there isn’t another club you can make. You have to get into the old boy’s club or find a way to dismantle it before you can make change. In that way, I really empathized with Frankie and what she was trying to do.

But I also absolutely agree with your (Ali’s) assessment of the book:

Personally I didn’t think the author was saying that she was perfect or she made the best choices. I read it more like: here’s what Frankie felt; here’s what she did about it; and here are the consequences, and Wow! That’s not what Frankie expected at all.

I think that sums up this book really, really well.

Other Reviews: Worducopia;

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

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