The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, by E. Lockhart
A teen girl infiltrates a boys-only secret society at her boarding school in this suspenseful, thought-provoking, and humorous novel.
“The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks”, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! I love your major girl power mentality. I love your Catcher-in-the-Rye-esque old chum’s club feel (without the loony pants main character). I love laughing at and with Frankie and all her quirky observations which mirror some of my own. (If the word immaculate exists, why not maculate???? Amen sistah, I’ve been asking that question for years!!!) I even love the light blue cover version of your book cover that contrasts so beautifully with the red seal of the Basset Hound Society. That seal of a basset hound intrigues the potential reader without them even reading the synopsis – I mean, really…what in heaven’s name is a basset hound doing on the cover of a YA novel? Open this fabu book and find out! So there, that’s my review. Go out, read it, and enjoy.
Ok, FINE!!!!! I know I have to give you more than that, but seriously people, the books I most enjoy are also the books I find hardest to review. Why? I don’t know.
Perhaps it’s because it would be so easy to write a full term paper as to why I love them, and spew crazy talk about my love for them all over the place and get super detailed about the story. Because when you love a book you want to shout it to the seven winds and you hope that it loves you back and come next Valentine’s it will send you a card and a dozen roses. Or maybe one of those delicious chocolate covered strawberry bouquets that come with the bonus of a pretty pot that you can use later for when it sends you flowers on your anniversary. Or wait, does that actually happen?
Well, if it could, this book would do it.
Our story starts at the end of summer on the Jersey shore. A bored Frankie convinces her mama (pronounced mah-mah…like an east coast heiress, please), to let her walk to the nearby boardwalk for an ice cream cone, as any teen girl would do if she was stuck with her LAB guy cousins and the rest of her extended family.
Thankfully she succeeds in ditching her utterly boring and insipid present company, and, as luck would have it, makes the acquaintance of a handsome fellow who is neither the former nor the latter, during her stroll. He is charmingly cryptic about who he is, flirty, amusing and has a witty exchange with Frankie in which he tells her hardly anything at all about himself before running off. This leaves the savvy reader with the impression she will be running into this intriguing character at some point later in the book – or at least she better!!! He exits, leaving a seed of interest planted but with no exchanging of cell numbers, e-mails or FB accounts. Obv’s this is the dude that she’s destined to hook up with right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight??? Oh, E. Lockhart, you tease me so (and I so love you for it).
Frankie is intelligent, clever, beautiful and rich. You hate her already? WAIT!!! Give my girl a chance. She also has to suffer through her family’s serious lack of respect for her (their nickname for her is “bunny rabbit” — and they mean it), not to mention living with the standard insecurities after being in her older sister Zada’s shadow for quite some time (this was no one’s fault, Zada is also strong and fabu and shadow-casting worthy). Oh, yea, and then there’s also her major unrequited crush on the campus “it guy”, one Mr. Matthew Livingston, who knows little to nothing of her existence.
To top it all off, my people, poor Frankie has to start her sophomore year at the prestigious Alabaster Preparatory Academy, a fancy pants, froo, froo boarding school – the alma mater of her father – all alone, on her own, to make her own way. Last year Frankie had established herself within Zada’s circle of popular people but alas, this year sissy is gone, gone, gone off to Berkeley.
Now, thing is, despite some feelings of trepidation, ultimately we realize Frankie is gonna be a’yt…she’s not one that enjoys the shade of anyone’s shadow (that’s a major hint people!). She’d rather slap on her metaphorical SPF 45, and bask in the allegorical sunshine. And sunshine she shall get – fo sho.
Before we know it, she is dating Matthew, Mr. Swoony Face hisself, and we are all devastatingly crushing on their first encounter. Seriously…it curled mah toes, it was just SOOOOO cute!
But wait…as a special bonus, moments after they have the fateful first official meet and greet that may very well bring them together forevah (because they’re just so damn cute) – tun, tun, tuuuuuuuhhhhhn!!!! – the dude from the board walk shows up. Oh yeeeeeeeeeeeee-eh-uh! He’s Matthew’s best friend (now that’s what I call a perfect co-inky-dink) and goes by the nickname of Alpha, a rather appropriate nickname (his real name is Alessandro) as he seems to be the ring leader of a click of boys on campus. But not just any boys…but the most popular and seemingly influential boys on campus and Frankie wants to know, “Why?” And guess what…so did I.
Now, perhaps another author would take this opportunity to confuse our girl’s heart and make it a hem and haw story a la Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle between Alpha, Matthew and Frankie but dawg, E. Lockhart takes Frankie on a journey of self-discovery that surprises the heck out of the reader. At least this reader, because what ensues next is like nothing I’ve ever read in any YA novel before. Did I tell you yet? LOOOVED IT!
So, see, here, this is what happens (picture me right now praying to the literary gods that I, in my love blindness for this book, don’t reveal too much —wish me luck): Instead of getting lost in the dazzle of two totally gorgeous men, Frankie looks beyond the looks, the popularity, the charisma and the money and digs deeper. This book is the antithesis to the current YA fiction trends where, despite the nagging feeling that something just not quite right about the dude that’s giving you those initial, delicious butterflies in your stomach, you just throw your hands in the air and go for it anyway. Hulloh!!!!!!!! It’s, like, revolutionary.
Frankie discovers that prince charming may be, well, not so much a prince. Or no, wait, I take it back…he is “the prince”, but is a prince what she wants? She starts to question if appearances are really as they seem. She observes as others fit the roles they’ve been assigned by the little society within the boarding school and whether or not she wants to accept her designated role. In so doing, she uncovers a mystery of legendary proportions (but no supernatural shiz here…it’s all real, human stuff), becomes the mastermind behind unveiling this little mystery to the rest of the school, and teaches some boys a much needed lesson that goes a little something like this:
“Never underestimate a smart girl who hates nothing more than being written off as JUST a girl!!!”.
Dig it!!!! In other words, that old saying (and all the t-shirts that have followed) should be modified to read a little something like this: “Don’t mess with Texas or Frankie Landau Banks, bishes”.
I will say that had I been the author I may have given Frankie a bit more self control (I think she took her mission a touch far) but had she not gotten a smidgle carried away, then there wouldn’t be a story. This one slight ding on my part is the same ding I give to the 5th episode I watch in an I Love Lucy marathon…I start cringing and talking to Lucy (yes, I talk to TV characters too) about her lack of good critical thinking skills, but still, it’s easily forgiven and I continue watching and laughing.
This book presents a fantastic challenge for the reader who can’t help but put herself (or himself?) in Frankie’s shoes and wonder…if presented with two options: acquiesce to a role assigned, or challenge the status quo (which means possibly losing the affection Mr. Hot Pants boyfriend), what would you do?
Oh, and interlaced into this fantastic story is Frankie’s awesome sense of humor and wit. She is totally on my GF list cuz we’re SO on the same wavelength I got a little spooked (after I was done laughing, iz funny).
Crush Intensity: Really? Do you have to ask? Fine then…if I must state the obvious: 5/5 – Loved Frankie, loved her sister, loved how well the author set up the major swooniness of the dude in the story only to challenge us as we chose along with Frankie…self worth or potentially losing the hot guy (and not knowing if this will happen until we follow through with it)???? OMG…I know. As an added gift, the tone of the book is tremendously smart. The author really shines with a story that is both well written and fun.
Soundtrack: You may wonder why in my past reviews there is a major lack of soundtrack choices on my part…and I’ll confess. I have a problem. An addiction, some might call it. I have no musical self control. If I pick soundtrack choices, it’s like I’m eating potato chips…I can’t have just one. I mean, hello, stories have different moments – the ups, the downs, the sad, the inspirational high point, the happy (or not so happy) conclusion…and so it’s hard to choose one song to put a book in a nutshell. I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I am not a nutshell kind of girl…I’m more of a giant conch shell, if I have to put something in any sort of shell. So that being said, I’ve used as much self control as I have on this front and narrowed it down to three moments that could use music in the movie playing in my head:
Supernatural – “Smile” — At this point she’s thinking: Why doesn’t it feel right when people call me “bunny rabbit”? Why don’t I like being thought of as “just the girlfriend”? Why do I want to be the mastermind behind the greatest prank this school has ever known???
“Haunting Me” by Stabbing Westward — Dedicated to the dawg that was more like the bitch who stole Frankie’s pads. Hee. You’ll find out.
“The Dark Days Are Over” – Florence and the Machine — Perfect to roll end credits to!