The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Release Date: March 28, 2008
Have any of you ever felt frustrated by the world we live in? By the societal pressures; the limitations placed on us because of our genders; the undeniable inequality that still exists between men and women? Especially as young, teenage girls? Have you ever have had a boyfriend who patronised you, a family who undermined you and a schooling system which didn’t challenge you? I ask these questions because these are the issues that are raised in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a story about a teenage girl called Frankie, as the title would suggest. Frankie attends an extremely prestigious private school with years of tradition behind it – there are secret societies that only admit males, staff who encourage this tradition, and an entire student body made up of the kinds of (male) kids who will inevitably become future businessman, politicians and lawyers. Frankie has no qualms about who she is or what she looks like – she is not the kind of female character who worries about the way she looks or how inadequate she feels. But she is different, make no mistake. When Frankie finds herself with a boyfriend, the handsome, popular Matthew Livingston (who mostly calls her ‘adorable’, which should tell you everything you need to know about him), her world view changes. Matthew is the President of a secret society that she can be never be admitted into purely because she is a girl. Frankie doesn’t accept this and through a combination of intelligence and cunning, she makes herself the anonymous head of the secret society, turning it into an organisation of large-scale pranks (of which Frankie ensures there are many). In doing so, Frankie both rebels against the patriarchal rules that dominate her life and subverts gender norms by doing the kinds of things that are considered wildly outrageous for a girl.
It is also worth noting that this novel is particularly good at depicting realistic teenage relationships. Frankie’s relationship with Matthew is examined as well as her attraction to the mysterious Alpha, who like her, stands out from the crowd, although for different reasons. Frankie herself is probably the best female YA protagonist I’ve ever come across, not least because her character doesn’t fit the generic Mary Sues that seem to be more and more common in YA literature these days. She is described as the kind of girl who could easily grow up to be a criminal mastermind and it is hard not to want that for her after seeing how infuriatingly inferior she is made to feel by so many different people.
This is the kind of book I want young girls to read and take something away from; the kind of book I wish would be taught in schools to teenagers because it is that important. The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks is bold, clever and in many ways, shocking. Frankie’s ultimate message is that she will not be what people tell her to be, and I think that is something that every young girl deserves to hear.
—–Reviewer X in an anonymous reviewer that I recruited due to their broad reading choices and excellent reviewing skills. I just had to have this on my blog! X will be reviewing everything from YA to classic novels, so I hope you enjoy these posts!