Monday, December 14, 2015
#52 [2015/CBR7] "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" by E. Lockhart
Frankie is starting her Sophomore year at Alabaster Preparatory Academy, an elite boarding school. The summer has changed her from a scrawny girl with frizzy hair to someone the boys are suddenly noticing. It doesn't take long before she begins to date a dreamy senior, Matthew, whom she's had a crush on forever. She's drawn into his exciting circle of friends and world of privilege. "These guys, they were so sure of their places in life--so deeply confident of their merit and their future--they didn't need any kind of front at all." (46)
Frankie is already aware of the all-male secret society at Alabaster called The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds because her father was a member in his day and she overheard him talking about it with his friends. Matthew's lame excuses to go hang out with the boys quickly make Frankie suspicious, and she figures out that Matthew is part of The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds as well. Hurt that Matthew would lie to her and intentionally exclude her, Frankie takes it upon herself to manipulate The Loyal Order into carrying out her ingenious pranks on the school.
I had some mixed feelings about this book. As far as young adult books go, this one was impressive. It's not often when you read a young, coming-of-age novel where the heroine does not end up with the boy. And the boy, in fact, does not complete her, or allow her to be herself, or any of the other tropes that set up young women for unreal relationship expectations. Matthew is smart, likable, charismatic, and funny, but he's also controlling and wants Frankie as a girlfriend only on his terms. They're not a good match, but they like the idea of the other and that keeps them together.
I was also impressed how E. Lockhart made the reader aware of all the pressures on Frankie, as a young woman, even a very privileged young woman, to stay in her place and fulfill the expectations her family and boyfriend had of her. From her mother calling her bunny and not allowing her to walk into town by herself, to the imposing hall of all male headmasters that gaze down at her daily, Frankie is inundated with reminders that she does not have as much power as the boys around her. In addition, Matthew expects her to fulfill his idea of how his girlfriend should act.
-"Frankie remembered how Matthew had called her a 'pretty package,' how he'd called her mind little, how he'd told her not to change--as if he had some power over her." (79)
-"When I act the way I acted, Matthew doesn't like me as much as he does when I fall off my bicycle." (175)
On the other hand, I had some problems relating to Frankie. I admired her, but I couldn't understand her quest for power. She didn't care what people thought about her, and she alienated herself from her friends--lying and hiding from them--exactly what made her so irritated with Matthew. I appreciate that Lockhart made a character who struggles and is not perfect, but she didn't always feel real to me.
I also did not have much interest in the pranks. Who cares if basset hound puppies are spread all over campus? Did Frankie really make any kind of difference? I also thought some of the details were unrealistic. How big of a ball of twine do you need if you are going to roll it out all over campus? Would Alpha really not tell his secret order what was going on?
I did like this book and I'm glad I read it, even though the couple of problems I had kept me from loving it. I really appreciated that Lockhart did not allow her heroine both rebellion and inclusion. Frankie is a character who will find her own way, and she makes real sacrifices for that independence.