Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

From the cover flap of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

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 Laundau-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.

This is more than possibly my favorite YA novel–at least one of my favorites. I read it awhile ago, before I started putting reviews online, and a few books I’ve read recently have reminded me again of this. I couldn’t resist when the First Book Blogger Book Club decided to read it. I thumbed through a copy of it to remind myself of some things, and I found myself re-reading long passages.  E. Lockhart has quickly become the author with the best narrative voice, in my opinion. I’ve read through the first few books in her Ruby Oliver series, and they’re really great. They’re as close to chick-lit as I’ll usually get, but her quirky characterization and voice are what get me and keep me coming back.

This novel tells the story of how an average girl finds her place in the midst of a school filled with Type-A competitive personalities, and boys who just see her as “cute” and “nice;” she was safe at Alabaster Prep, having “gotten by at Alabaster on the strength of being Zada’s little sister” (5). Now she’s alone at school and must find her way on her own.

After being a bit plain, shy, and mousy her freshman year, Frankie begins to mature over the summer and returns to Alabaster Prep changed. She’s not yet comfortable in her skin, but she’s on her way there. Frankie has a cute boyfriend, as well as a decent group of friends–mostly his–yet she’s slowly developing a sense of self beyond them. She fights a constant war between remaining true to herself and continuing to be a people-pleaser. She combats “being claimed” by her boyfriend and becoming her own person aside from–or apart from–him.

When she finds herself shunted aside, excluded by a boys-only club, The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds–of which her boyfriend and others in his posse are members–Frankie decides to take matters into her own hands. She wants to prove not only the bigger idea that girls can do whatever guys can, but that she can do these things. She truly comes into her own, eventually secretly leading the Bassets via a mysterious email account, ordering them to do her bidding. Hilarious pranks, secret missions, a quest, and a twinge of romance ensue, leading to the frame story of Frankie’s confession to the headmaster of Alabaster Prep.

This is a fast, funny, quirky, engrossing read, as are the Ruby Oliver books, which start with The Boyfriend List. I still need to read Dramarama and Fly on the Wall.


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