Friday, May 15, 2009
I first saw a review of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion Books, 352 pgs. 2008) over a year ago and thought that it looked great. I'm a big fan of YA books, as you well know. Not sure what took me so long to read it, but once I decided to join the Printz Project, I knew this would be one of the first books I read.
I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order -- including the Library Lady, the Doggies in the Window, the Night of a Thousand Dogs, the Canned Beet Rebellion, and the abduction of the Guppy. That is, I wrote the directives telling everyone what to do.
Frances (Frankie) Landau-Banks is a student at the prestigious Alabaster boarding school. As a freshman, she was pretty much unnoticed. When she was, it was only because her sister, Zada (a senior) was really popular. But the summer after her freshman year was good to her, and she came back to school in the fall with a knockout figure. When Senior Matthew Livingston, the boy she coveted her entire freshman year, showed interest in her, she was ecstatic. Until she realized she was playing second fiddle to his best friend, Alpha.
Then she found out that Matthew was a member of Alabaster's secret ALL-MALE society known as the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Because her father was also a member when he attended Alabaster, Frankie knew a bit about the group. And she wanted in. Of course, as a girl, there was no way the boys were going to let her in.
But after she figured out the clues given to her by her father (and spying on a meeting of the Bassets), Frankie found the lost and secret Disreputable History written by years of members. Arming herself with a new email address, Frankie set in motion a series of events that was sure to leave the campus talking.
What I loved about this book was Frankie. She is strong-willed and smart. Not a person to take stereotypes lightly, Frankie tried to break ranks and do what she felt was right....and damn the consequences. She decided she wasn't going to sit by and do nothing when she knew she was smart enough and strong enough to be a member of this group. She was going to break down the barriers that said she couldn't do something because she was a girl. My favorite paragraph in the entire book is this:
Matthew had called her harmless. Harmless. And being with him made Frankie feel squashed into a box -- a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not over sensitive); 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 love a strong female protagonist. I've said that many times. And that is exactly what Frankie is. She doesn't want follow the expectations of others....she has her own expectations. And she is taking no prisoners.
But as in real life, every action has a consequence. And Frankie has to face up to those consequences. She is young and naive enough to think that Matthew and the other Bassets are going to be impressed with her intelligence instead of upset that she thought outside the box. I have to say, I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but in all actuality, it was probably the best way it could have been written. Very real life, and not some fairy-tale, happily-ever-after conclusion. In Frankie, Lockhart has created a strong, unforgettable character, that defies cliques and stereotypes and just is. She is the person SHE wants to be, not the person that others thinks she should be. And that is commendable. Every girl should read this book to show them they don't have to follow the "rules" society has set for them. And every boy should read it as well...just to prove to them that there are girls that won't handle being "put in a box"l!! Highly Recommended!! 4.5/5