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

 

I’ve known about this book for quite a long time now, but my attempts to track it down in Waterstones have been unsuccessful. So I requested it at the local library – took them only 2 days to get it which is quite impressive!

Frankie Landau-Banks is a student at the prestigious Alabaster Preparatory Academy on the East Coast. During her freshman year, she was a good-natured member of the Debate club and her father’s Bunny Rabbit. The school mostly knew her as Zada Landau-Banks’ little sister. Come Frankie’s sophomore year, Zada has graduated Alabaster and has moved to University of Berkeley. Frankie, however, has also gone through changes over the summer. The 15-year-old Frankie has a chip on her shoulder, a sharp tongue and has undergone physical transformation thanks to the magic of puberty. She knows what she wants now, and at the moment, it’s a hot senior boy Matthew Livingston. However, that begins to change when she discovers an all-male secret society within the school and realises that Matthew might be a member. Him and his best friend Alpha may think themselves smart and savvy, but Frankie knows she’s smarter than any of them. Taking “no” for an answer isn’t her thing, so she puts on her Nancy Drew glasses and starts investigating. Upon confirming the existence of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, she is not very happy with the fact that girls are not allowed in. Between Matthew treating her like an adorable but scatter-brained armcandy and him and his friends considering her and girls in general unable to be in positions of power and capable of great thought, Frankie isn’t happy. And when Frankie isn’t happy, chaos ensues.

I am actually disappointed that I haven’t read this book when I was in my teens. This is a true girlpower manifesto. However, I would never say that this is a “girl’s book”, mostly because I don’t really believe in separating books into boy-and girl-books; the hilarity of Frankie’s shenanigans and the messages behind the story are something everyone can enjoy. The writing isn’t overly riddled with metaphors and things of the sort – it is straight-forward, which I think works really well. For me, the best part was Frankie’s character. She is by no means perfect – like many other YA heroines, she unfortunately has a touch of internalised misogyny about her, but I believe that that would change in the future. I also do not, in any way, condone stalking your significant other, even if you suspect they are involved in a secret society. Nonetheless, Frankie is incredibly smart and feisty, not to mention inventive. Her views on girl power and other good causes are the views which, in my opinion, should be held by all the modern teenagers. She is not afraid to stand up for herself and, by the end of the book, realises that settling is not always a good thing and one should always strive for more.

People are too quick to dismiss teenagers these days, particularly girls, which I think is incredibly problematic. Having done several pro bono presentations to secondary school students, I can confirm that teenagers today have a very good grasp on social issues and problems within the society. I, for one, had very little idea about issues like discrimination and prejudice when I was 15-17 – I now know that they are still very prevalent. Books like “The Disreputable History” show us the importance of educating and listening to young people. They are, after all, our future leaders. I am hosting a debate in a secondary school in Gloucestershire in a couple of weeks about Women in Law myself and I have to say, I am very much looking forward to what the young ladies have to say!

My other favourite part of the book were the linguistics jokes – as a fluent speaker of three languages, I can always appreciate languages-related humour. Frankie seems to have a penchant for playing around with prefixes, which brought a smile to my face more than once. I can’t remember the details now, but together with the jokes, the pranks and Frankie’s general attitude, as well as the boarding school atmosphere, this book was a great read. I give it a solid 8/10.

 

Favourite character

Frankie – there is no competition really.

Favourite relationship

Frankie and Alpha – I shudder to think of them as partners in crime! It says on the cover “Frankie Landau-Banks at the age of 16 – possibly a criminal mastermind”. She is definitely brilliant enough to be one, but if she had Alpha as her sidekick, I’d read/watch/roleplay the hell out of that!

Favourite quotes

It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”

Once you say women are one way, and men are another, and say that’s how it is in other species so that’s gotta be how  it is in people, then even if it’s somewhat true – even if it’s quite a good amount true – you’re setting yourself up to make all kinds of assumptions that actually really suck. Like, women tend to co-operate with each other and therefore don’t have enough competitive drive to run major companies or lead army squadrons. Or men are inherently unfaithful because they want to propagate their seed. Assumptions like this do nothing but cause problems in the world.”

“Just because I’m letting you buy me cheese fries, doesn’t mean you can xo me” 

 

Dreamcast

Frankie Landau-Banks – Shay Mitchell or a young Alexandra Chando

Matthew Livingston – Wes Aderhold

Alpha – Diego Boneta

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “The Disreputable History” if you liked:

“Jeeves and Wooster series” by P. G. Wodenhouse (Frankie loves them)

“On the Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta

“Please Ignore Vera Dietz” by A. S. King

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