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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Review

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Something happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at Alabaster Preparatory, one of the nation's most elite boarding schools. Before, she was pretty enough, but lanky, a little awkward, the kind of girl you might not notice, known in her family as "Bunny Rabbit." Almost overnight, however, she turned into a full-blown swan. With a gorgeous face and a knockout body to match, Frankie is suddenly getting a lot of attention, particularly from senior heartthrob Matthew Livingston.

At first, Matthew seems like Frankie's ideal boyfriend. Smart, ambitious, with a gift for writing and a mind almost as critical as Frankie's own, Matthew appears to be Frankie's perfect match. But even though Frankie's body might have altered drastically, her whip-smart mind hasn't changed a bit. So when Matthew and his senior friends start excluding Frankie from the exclusive meetings of their top-secret club, the Order of the Basset Hounds (an invitation-only organization to which Frankie's own father belonged during his days at Alabaster), Frankie begins to question Matthew's other patronizing behavior toward her. Is she really his girlfriend, or just a cute new toy? "Being with him made Frankie feel squashed into a box --- a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); 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."

Then and there, Frankie decides she'll never be called "harmless" again. Using a brilliant combination of tactics, she is soon turning not only the Bassets but also all of Alabaster Prep right on their tradition-steeped heads. As a brilliant (and beautiful) criminal mastermind, Frankie has finally found her niche --- even if it means risking everything she has gained as a result of that sudden beauty.

E. Lockhart has been writing smart, funny novels for young adults for a while now. With THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS, she should gain even more respect as one of the cleverest writers for teens. Not only a terrific coming-of-age novel, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY is also a consideration of traditional prep-school culture, gender conventions and even cultural criticism, all tied up in a deftly plotted package.

Readers may be surprised to discover that the pranks Frankie researches (and later uses as her own inspiration) are actually real, historically-verified college practical jokes. Parents of teens may be concerned that readers might use these ideas as their own inspiration. It's more likely, however, that teens will come away from Frankie's story with a healthy skepticism of harmful traditions, an appreciation for creative thinking, and a reluctance to accept the status quo without a fight (or at least without some serious questioning). Frankie's "disreputable history" is also an affirming story of a girl who refuses to see herself as others see her, who instead defines herself according to her own set of rules.

Playful, quirky and idiosyncratic, E. Lockhart's latest work of fiction should be a must-read for any teen trying to figure out her own rules to live by.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 25, 2008

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

  • Publication Date: August 25, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
  • ISBN-10: 0786838191
  • ISBN-13: 9780786838196