Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A disreputable - and highly entertaining - history

Frankie Landau-Banks, fifteen, is returning to her exclusive boarding school as a sophomore. Last year she was a geeky freshman, all but invisible except for the fact that her popular sister helped to smooth her way. Now her sister is off at college, and Frankie is on her own. Over the summer, though, she suddenly attained curves and height, and Matthew, the incredibly hot senior she'd been mooning over her entire freshman year, suddenly is very interested in her.

But Frankie is not content to be the girlfriend of a popular guy, hanging out on the sidelines while the boys have all the fun. Frankie is smart and creative and finds immediate practical applications for the knowledge and understanding gleaned from her high-quality education. As much as she loves Matthew and enjoys being with his friends, who are goofy and smart and fun be with, she feels that they don't take her seriously. Her own family (except her sister) doesn't take her seriously, a frustrating fact that is reflected in their nickname for her: Bunny Rabbit.

Frankie's father has often mentioned being part of a secret society when he attended her boarding school (before it became coed), something to do with basset hounds. When he gets together with his old boarding school friends (all powerful, wealthy men, firmly entrenched in their good-old-boy network), they reminisce most annoyingly, refusing to let Frankie in on any of their secrets (which they would certainly do if she were a boy). When Frankie discovers that Matthew and his friends are part of the very same secret society, and he lies to her about it, excluding her from that part of his life - never even considering for one millisecond to invite her (or any of the girls) to join them, Frankie feels angry and shut out. And she decides to do something about it. Meet Frankie Landau-Banks, criminal mastermind.

She finds it both exhilarating and annoying that, when she figures out an ingenious way to take control of the secret society anonymously, no one begins to suspect her. She is devious and intelligent, and the pranks that she masterminds are not just silly and outrageous - she has very specific points to make. Even if none of the other Basset Hounds realizes that.

At one point one of the boys is briefly suspicious of Frankie - not, of course, of actually being involved, but of knowing something about the society. She overhears him talking about her with Matthew, who replies, "She doesn't even know anything about anything. I promise you, she's harmless." Later, Frankie thinks this over:

Matthew had called her harmless. Harmless. And being with him made Frankie feel squished into a box - a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); a box for young and pretty girls who were not as bright or powerful as their boyfriends. A box for people who were not forces to be reckoned with.

Frankie wanted to be a force.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Frankie is an exceptional character - I love her unabashed intelligence and willingness to examine her own faults and weaknesses. I love that she doesn't take things at face value - her reflections about a seemingly thoughtless comment or casual interaction with someone give her amazing insight into other people and how they see the world. I love that as much as she adores Matthew, and is amazed that he has chosen her out of all the other girls in school to be his girlfriend, she doesn't allow herself to be blinded by that. She examines what he says, how he treats her, and sees it for what it is. I love that she likes being smart and hates being underestimated. I love that she is angry by closed doors, angry enough to do something about them. Frankie is a force, and it was a pleasure to read about her exploits.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Abby (the) Librarian
Page Numbered (includes author interview)
The Reading Zone

17 comments:

  1. I haven't heard of this one but the boo cover alone makes me want to read it. Is this YA? I'll be looking into this one after your glowing review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Natasha - Yes, it's YA, the first book I've read by this author. But now that I've read this one, I fully intend to go back and read her others!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hadn't heard of this one either, but it sounds great. I love an intelligent and strong young protagonist :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Me, too, Nymeth! I think you'll really enjoy it. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for linking to my blog! Yeah I think this is the best of E's books, but they're all amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for stopping by, Pagenumbered! I enjoyed your review and the interview, too. I'm definitely looking forward to reading E's other books!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You know, any book that teaches young girls to be more than just giggling teens is all right by me! I love a book with a strong female character. This one sounds perfect!!

    Will defintely have to check this one out!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the link! Love your review. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. oh geez... another one for the wish list!! Really a good review, and I never heard of this book before!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Stephanie - I completely agree, and I think you'll love this one!

    Abby - My pleasure. And I enjoyed reading your review, too!

    Thanks, Deslily! It came in new at work, and I always look through the new books before they go out on the shelf. After I read the cover flap, I just had to bring it home, even though it is embarrassing how many library books I have checked out!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great review - I will be adding this to my TBR pile!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks! I'm glad you're adding it, Stephanie - I think you'll love it!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I just put this book on hold, it sounds like a fun read.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I absolutely must get my hands on this one for my daughter...and then it's in handy reach for borrowing as well, of course ;)
    Thanks for the wonderful review!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Debi - thanks! I hope your daughter (and you) enjoy it. Ah, the ulterior motive book purchase - I love it! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I loooove E. Lockhart! This one is on my TBR shelf. I'm so happy for you that you've discovered her - her Boyfriend List books are a hoot, as is Dramarama. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Tinylittlelibrarian - I'm glad to hear you enjoyed them! This one was so much fun, I definitely intend to read the others.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment!