Published by Allen & Unwin
Published on January 1 2015 (First published January 1st 2008)
Genres: Adolescence, Girls & Women, Humorous Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Source: Allen & Unwin
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Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father's "bunny rabbit." A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.
Frankie Landau-Banks: No longer the kind of girl to take 'no' for an answer. Especially when 'no' means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society. Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew's lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind.
This is the story of how she got that way.
I received a copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Frankie Landau-Banks is somewhat of a rebel, and possibly a criminal mastermind. When she returns to sophomore year at an exclusive private boarding school, she’s determined to become a part of her boyfriend’s all boys’ secret society. Because she’s a) a girl b) a sophomore, and c) the society is a secret she can’t breach, she decides instead to take control of the club and use their pranks to make social commentary on her school instead.
This is a contemporary novel, so there wasn’t as much world-building as in speculative fiction. However, there was an entire culture built around the prep school Alabaster, and the secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. It was easy to believe Alabaster was a real school with a rich cultural heritage that fed its student into the Ivy League. The whole thing seemed incredibly realistic.
Frankie was quite a likeable character, but I’m still trying to understand why she so desperately wanted to be a part of the boys’ club. Was it because she didn’t want to be excluded? She didn’t like being lied to by her boyfriend? She genuinely wanted to be friends with her boyfriend’s friends? Or did all of her father’s not-so-subtle teasing about the not-so-secret society really pique her interest? None of the other girls in the novel were half as interested as Frankie. She didn’t do it to be popular, or even notorious. I like to think that she did it because she could, and that’s Frankie: a underestimated genius.
Frankie’s many relationships varied over the novel but none of them were as important as her tussle for power with Alpha, the cute guy we meet at the start of the novel, and her boyfriend Matthew’s best friend. Alpha is the leader of the Bassets, but Frankie would have made a way better leader, which she proves. She fights Alpha for power over Matthew, over proving herself as someone worthy, as important, and even possibly for his friendship. Her relationship with Matthew is well-written to expose all the kinds of power inequalities between boys and girls, between older and younger students, between students in secret societies and those not. Although this wasn’t a romance, I did really enjoy watching Frankie’s relationship with Matthew, especially when she realised he wasn’t perfect. Other notable relationships include Zara, Frankie’s older sister (and thus the person whose shadow she was in in freshman year), and Trish, her roommate, who was an excellent friend to Frankie, even when Frankie was being a bit of an asshole.
I’m so pleased my first read of 2015 was a 5 star read. I loved the narrative voice and storytelling ability of Lockhart which kept me turning pages long after I was supposed to be asleep. I loved watching Frankie’s shenanigans and seeing her deep thought process analysing even the most basic conversation. I loved the way she took down the patriarchal nonsense of the prep school and the secret society. I just loved everything about this book, and I can’t wait to re-read it.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks”
I’m so glad you loved this book! I admired it so much when I read it. 🙂
You ask, I’m still trying to understand why she so desperately wanted to be a part of the boys’ club. My guess is that it’s just her personality and a desire for justice: Frankie’s got so much privilege in her life, and then she finds herself faced with a privilege she can’t have, just because she’s female. And it’s her first experience with finding a door so solidly shut to her. I find it a shame that the other girls at Alabaster don’t care so much. This book made me wish so hard that Frankie were a real person who will keep fighting these battles! Hopefully, she’s inspiring teenagers as we write.
Her relationship with Matthew is well-written to expose all the kinds of power inequalities between boys and girls, between older and younger students, between students in secret societies and those not. It is so, so well done. And you sum it up perfectly here.
Thanks for a great review! Happy New Year!
I really like your answer of Frankie’s so privileged she can’t bear to have no access to the boys club. That’s my new take on it. Thank you! And even though it wasn’t a romance and the relationship was unsuccessful, I really did enjoy reading about Frankie and Matthew.
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