Monday, December 13, 2010

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

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.

Review: I absolutely adored this book. I read it soon after reading the first two books in the Ruby Oliver series by the same author. But The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart is very different in tone and style to the other books I've read of hers. Frankie is a feisty main character who isn't particulary likeable in many ways, but really stands up for herself. She's crafty and intelligent and won't be a push-over. This is the ultimate feminist book for YA. I really haven't read a better literary YA book than this in a very long time, possibly ever.

What's very different about this book, is the layout. E Lockhart cuts and pastes different scenes from Frankie's life and intersperses her narrative with letters and diary entries, flash-back memories emails and articles. It almost reads like a manual, chronicling Frankie's transformation from Daddy's little 'bunny rabbit' into 'criminal mastermind.' And it's a very interesting journey from one to the other. Frankie Landau-Banks goes from a geeky, awkward and almost invisible girl at a boarding school into the girlfriend of one of the most popular boys at school. And during that time, she seen as 'less' to the other boys. Her opinions aren't important, she's only seen as Matthew's girlfriend and not as a person in her own right with opinions and thoughts that matter. Piecing together the other information, from the way her mother treats her different to that of a younger male cousin, to her ex-boyfriend cheating on her the previous year, we can see that these events change Frankie and are the impetus needed in order to overthrow this secret society.

Frankie Landau-Banks is pretty bad-ass. She sees the injustice around and the differential treatment she and other females in her school recieve and so she decides to stick up for herself and change the status quo. She doesn't have many friends and isn't particularly a friendly or very nice. In fact, she's pretty ruthless when it comes to getting what she wants but her tenacity is coupled with vulnerability as the reader is able to see how much she cares for Matthew and how much it hurts that he doesn't let her in or think very highly of her. While not always 'liking' Frankie, I was always, always rooting for her.

I love how E Lockhart addresses the problems of gender and time honoured institutions in this novel, and how she identifies the different power roles that boarding schools create. Frankie is level-headed, smart and feisty and she's more than capable of taking down the popular group of boys and running the school on her own. The story is interspersed with some really interesting concepts and articles, about a Suicide Club, the issue of a panoptican controlling people's behaviours, even the use of language and changing and creating words was fascinating. I adored this novel and Frankie Landau-Banks will forever rank highly on my list of favourite female characters.

This might be my favourite book that I've read all year. It has an interesting layout, characters and the complexity of the themes such as gender and power were written incredibly well. It features one of the most empowering female characters I've read in a long time. This is one definitely not to miss out on.


  1. I want it! It sounds like my kind of book.

  2. It sounds really great! Loved your review :)
    I'm definitely adding this to my wishlist.

  3. I read this a few months ago and absolutely loved it - it will go down as one of my favorites of 2010 as well!

  4. I absolutely loved this book, and your review did it justice!

  5. I just read this too! And had much the same reaction to it. I thought it was great how Lockhart made Frankie tough and amazingly capable, without losing her interest in being in a relationship with Matthew. Frankie's such a good heroine.

  6. Vivienne - It's fab! Hope you do read it :)

    Emma - It IS really good :) Thanks.

    Kat - Thank you, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Florinda - YAY. I knew you had good taste in books :)

    Zara - Thank you for saying so, now I'm trying to track down more of E Lockhart's work!

    Jenny - Frankie is definitely one of my favourite female characters ever. Loved this one. So, so much.

  7. I've seen this book around but never picked it up - I don't know why since I've loved all the other E Lockhart books I've read. Frankie definitely sounds like a strong, interesting character, thanks for the review!

  8. absolutely terrific review! I enjoyed this one a lot as well.

  9. LIZ! I haven't seen you around in ages, how are you?! And yes, Frankie is all of those things and this was a wonderful read, I do hope you pick it up :)

    Lisa - Oh, thank you very much! How's everything gone with the move?

  10. I've not seen many reviews for this book, so I was really glad to be able to read yours because I was never to sure what the book actually was about. Loved your review and will be sure to give this one a try :)

  11. Ha, well I sort of abandoned blogging for a while due to all the school work. You think doing less subjects would be easier, but apparently not! I probably won't be very active for a while but I hope to post a few bits and pieces :). How have you been? I have so much to catch up with!

  12. Tammy - I think a few years ago there were stacks of reviews of this and then they all just STOPPED. Which is a shame as this is SUCH a good book.

    Liz - Oh no, good luck with school and everything :) Probably better to focus on all of that for awhile. I've been OK. Same as always really :) Glad to hear that you'll be blogging every now and again though..

  13. Thank you :). I haven't been doing as well as I would've hoped with my studies actually so I guess I'm going to have to put a lot of hard work in. I hope you enjoy your holidays though! I read your post about not feeling festive - I think everyone's feeling it this year. We only just put our tree up today. I hope you and your family have a great time though - I always think the best part is all the food! :p


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