Jami's Reviews > The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
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Jan 07, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, printz-award
Read from April 28 to May 08, 2010

I kept alternating between being frustrated and impatient with this book, and enthralled with the main character and the feminist perspective. Even when I finished it, I couldn't decide how I felt but decided overall, it left me with a positive outlook.

Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at a prestigious boarding school where she discovers her boyfriend is a member of a secret society for boys only. Matthew is a senior, he's good-looking, rich, thoughtful, and caring. Everything a girl could ever want in a boyfriend. Except she realizes that while he adores her, protects her, and finds her funny and charming, he underestimates her. He doesn't appreciate her great intellect or really see her as an equal or competitor in any way. His loyalty to his brothers in the secret society comes before any feelings he has for her.

Frankie resents this, and she resents the "Old Boy" philosophy that keeps Matthew from even telling her about the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds society, let alone inviting her to be a part of it. She challenges the antiquated, yet still prevalent, social standards that elevate boys for the same behavior that would alienate a girl. She finds a way to control the boys of the Loyal Order of Bassett Hounds without their even knowing it and manages to send them on missions to perform school pranks that promote her political agenda under their very noses.

The ideas in this book were wonderful, and the writing was extraordinarily clever. A few things that made me feel impatient with it, though, were the tangents the author often went on, taking pages to give the reader information that could have been given in a paragraph or two.

Also, some clever ideas were just over-used. Frankie introduces to the reader the concept of the "neglected positive" -- something she read in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, a notoriously clever and witty author. The idea is that you can take a word like "disgruntled" and take off the negative prefix-like beginning to make up a new word that means the opposite: "gruntled." Funny? Yes. Clever? Sure. But the author takes up almost a whole chapter explaining neglected positives, and then Frankie continues to use them so excessively to the point of being annoying, rather than clever, as no one has any idea what she is talking about. It reminded me of my younger brother when he was six and had just heard a new joke. When he first told our family, we all thought it was hilarious. Having gotten such a great reaction, he proceeded to tell the joke every day, many times a day, until we all wanted to throttle him. I still remember that blasted joke today. (What do you get when you cross an elephant with a kangaroo? Pot holes all over Australia! . . . in case you were wondering.)

But despite those annoyances, I still found the book refreshing in its treatment of feminist ideas, especially for a young adult reader. Besides, the story was fun and the pranks entertaining. It was not hard to believe that a girl was the mastermind behind it all . . .
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