Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Title:               The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Category:       Realistic
Grade:            13-17
Author:          E. Lockhart
Publisher:       Hyperion
Place:              New York
Date:               2008
Pages:             342

Sophomore year is looking up for Frankie Landau-Banks as she returns to her exclusive prep school, Alabaster.  Changed completely from her scrawny and awkward freshman self, Frankie soon begins dating the “catch” of the school, Matthew Livingston and hanging out with his group of buddies.  When Matthew begins blowing her off to spend time with his friends, Frankie uncovers the school’s secret society, the Bassets, of which her father and now Matthew, are a part.  Tired of being condescended to and excluded because of her gender and knowing that the Bassets will never willingly admit her, Frankie masterminds a plot to manipulate the Loyal Order of the Bassets into following her lead on a series of wild escapades. 

Frankie is a wholly engaging young lady, with a notably quirky love for wordplay.  While Matthew and the boys are slightly shallow at times, and the gender equality theme is played a big heavy-handed in places, the overall book is a well-paced romp through the joys and pitfalls of high society boarding school.  Teens may have some trouble relating to the ingrained attitudes of the wealthy which are a bit stereotypical in spots, but will connect readily to Frankie’s struggles to make Matthew see her as an equal and will enjoy the humor and adventure of her schemes. The book started off a bit slow, and teens who struggle at all with vocabulary or comprehension will probably have difficulty with it, particularly due to Frankie’s habit of using neglected positives.  I appreciated some of the elements this book chose to focus on that are common struggles in real-life romance, namely boy choosing his buddies over his girl too often.  The idea of the secret society is certainly long present in U.S. history, but often neglected in contemporary teen storytelling, and Frankie’s outrageous pranks and takeover of the Bassets will have teens laughing and ignite their feminist streak. The ending could not be termed “happy” exactly, but it was realistic without being depressing.  Frankie was able to come to terms with and be content with herself, even without Matthew’s approval, a valuable lesson for young women today.  While I found the equality message slightly overplayed at times, it was not so much as to be a deterrent to the book. Frankie was a complex and overall quite satisfying read, as well as containing a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy and a little mystery.  A fully enjoyable read, Frankie contains a little something for everyone.


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