Thursday, July 24, 2008

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

3.5 stars

Wow, folks are really interested in this one, based on the Weekly Geeks comments! I'll do my best to answer them.

From the publisher: Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father's "bunny rabbit." A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. Frankie Landau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer. Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society [The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds]. Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew's lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

Becky asked: What can you tell me about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks that would make me move it up in my tbr pile?
I can tell you that E. Lockhart is very, very funny and she writes very well about interesting young women who experience issues we can all relate to like first loves, heartbreak, friendship troubles, and coming into their own.

If you've read E. Lockhart's other books, how does this one compare? Better, worse, bout the same?

This kind of goes with the next question...

Jennie asked: I haven't read the Disreputable History... yet, but it's on my list. Have you read other works by E. Lockhart? Are you tempted to now seek them out?

I have read all of E. Lockhart's previous books and I've loved almost all of them. My favourites are the the pair The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book but Dramarama is also wonderful. If I hadn't read the others, I don't know if this one would have made me seek her out. It might have, as there were parts I really enjoyed, especially the funny and clever Basset Hound pranks. But I didn't find it as funny as the others - it didn't click with me like those ones did. So while I wouldn't say it was "worse" I'd say it was less my thing - I really found Ruby's lists and footnotes in the Boy books hilarious and I loved the musical-lovin' drama queens (both male and female) in Dramarama.

There were 2 things that I didn't love about it. One was the extended scenes of word play when Frankie decided to use words such as "gruntled" after reading PG Wodehouse and how it irritated her copy editor boyfriend and confused her friends. I thoroughly approve of that, being a Wodehouse fan, but it went on a bit long for me. The other thing was the device of the book itself being a dossier of some sort on Frankie, indicating she'd gone on to a rather notorious, exciting life. It was an interesting way of presenting it, but as we don't know what that exciting life was, it got a bit tired and made me wish I was reading about her being an international woman of mystery or whatever she turned out to be, rather than her school days

This is a book marketed to teens. Would adults enjoy it? I think they would. The pranks and school days-ness might cause some happy nostalgia and Frankie is both wise beyond her years and still a teen struggling with the universal issues I mentioned in Becky's question. I always find E. Lockhart's writing to be excellent and to engage me as an adult reader.

Biblioatrist asked: How is the history of Frankie Landau-Banks a disreputable one? Did you learn anything from this person's story?

The "disreputable" part comes from the title of the Basset Hounds' secret notebook, it's called their Disreputable History. But Frankie is disreputable in that she doesn't accept the status quo. She doesn't want to settle for being a nice, sweet, quiet girlfriend of a popular, rich boy. She wants the lifestyle of her wealthy peers, but she wants to get it by thinking and acting for herself. She wants to make changes when she sees something she feels is wrong and she wants to make other people think, too. Her family, friends, and boyfriend don't understand this, they think she should be "Bunny Rabbit" - the quiet little girl she'd been as a child.

I learned that while we've come a long way, it can still be difficult for girls to break into traditionally boys' only spheres and that it's not just boys who may look askance at those who try, but family and friends, as well. And I think that it's a good message to have out there for teen girls - to think for themselves, act on what they believe in, and to be "disreputable." (And to read PG Wodehouse!)


Alix said...

I really loved this book, while I agree it wasn't as funny as The Boyfriend List. I thought it was clever and Frankie was great role model for teen girl, I liked that she wasn't dying of love but had other things on her mind!

Liviania said...

I did like the wordplay, but it did seem like her conversation with her friends being confused by her word usage got repeated with each one.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Alix - That's certainly true. These days I'm happy to see any book that doesn't revolve around lovesickness, clothes, or being a mean girl. And I did think Frankie was a good role model for smart girls!

Liviana - Yeah, that part did go on too long. A couple of times was funny and then it just got tiresome. If I'd been one of her friends, I'd have told her it was time to let it go. :)

Anonymous said...

Well written article.