Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks

by E. Lockhart
Disney Hyperion | March 25, 2008

Fifteen-year-old Frankie blossomed over the summer and when she returns to Alabaster Prep in the fall of her sophomore year, Matthew notices her for the first time, which thrills her. As she figures out how to navigate the system of her exclusive boarding school for the first time without her older sister (who graduated and is off at Berkeley), she finds she has some problems with the system. The boys have an exclusive club, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, and Frankie is annoyed she can't be a part of it. So she infiltrates it. What ensues results in Frankie ending up outcast by many and wondering about her place in the world, in gender roles, and in her own family.

Lockhart is known for her books about strong, interesting young women - the Ruby Oliver Boyfriend List series, Dramarama, and Fly on the Wall. Frankie is likely her most feminist character. There's a bit of debate, though, about whether Frankie is indeed a feminist role model or if she is the exact opposite. No matter how one reads this text, it's a fantastic story with a great plot line and an interesting voice. It is told in the third person (interestingly, Frankie does not tell her own story) by a semi-intrusive narrator, who makes an occasional comment and leads the reader to support Frankie in moments where the reader may otherwise judge her. A clever methodology by Lockhart.

I want to hang out with Frankie. But then, I also have always wanted to hang out with Holden Caulfield, so take that how you will. This book offers endless things to talk about - in a book club, in a classroom, amongst a group of friends. Why does Frankie do what she does? Would you? How do you feel about the pantopticon? The list goes on and on. This makes a fantastic parent/child read, too - read it together and have a chat about it. No didacticism needed - just a really good heart to heart about "not be[ing] what people tell [you] [you] should be."

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