The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Frankie Landau-Banks goes from "Bunny Rabbit" to criminal mastermind during her sophomore year at the exclusive Alabaster Prep boarding school.
When Frankie starts dating Matthew Livingston, she feels that she has been given a window into his world of confident privilege and power. And she desperately wants to belong in her own right, not just as a pretty girl the boys underestimate. She discovers the existence of the male-only Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds and secretly begins pulling their strings, orchestrating larger and more elaborate pranks.
This is one of my favorite YA books. Frankie is smart, her pranks are genuinely clever and funny, and she is as conflicted and occasionally insecure as any other ordinary high-school girl. Unlike most high school girls, though, she knows exactly what she wants and often has a good idea of how to get it. (This is also the book that introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse, for which I shall be eternally grateful.)
Written like an anthropological study (or a profile of the criminal mind at work), The Disreputable History chronicles one ambitious, smart girl's year of coming into her own. A book club or an English class could probably spend a quarter analyzing the power dynamics at play, Frankie's ideas about rebellion against the Panopticon, or how each character (male and female) represents a different response to patriarchy.
What to read after you're finished:
The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart - for your next fix of clever, feminist chick lit.
The Interventionists: Users' Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life, edited by Gregory Sholette - "interventionists" create art to bring awareness to issues of injustice (Lockhart cites this in the afterward).
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse - For a hilarious look into the machinations of the Old Boys' Club by "a prose stylist of such startling talent that Frankie nearly skipped around with glee when she first read some of his phrases." Amen.
Team Human by Justine Larbalesteir - another YA writer who consistently writes strong and believable female heroines.
A few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- "Secrets are more powerful when people know you've got them," said Mr. Sutton. "You show them the tiniest edge of your secret, but the rest you keep under wraps."
- "It had been, she felt, a dumb event preceded by excellent invitations."
- "She wasn't a person who needed to be liked so much as she was a person who liked to be notorious."
- "Frankie did not accept life as it was presently occurring."
- “It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”