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Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

March 14, 2011

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart

Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 342
Pub Date: March 25, 2008

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 Laundau-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.–Goodreads

This is the first book I’ve read  by Miss E. Lockhart’s and OMG IS IT GOOD. I love everything about secret societies and find boarding schools fascinating–there’s just something so romantic in the notions of both, don’t you think?–so because of my already established love of the subject matter, I felt like I was preternaturally destined to like this book. However, the quality of the writing and the vividness of the characters exceeded my I’m-going-to-like-this-no-matter-what expectations, and made me crave this story. I seriously couldn’t put it down. (I mean that. I didn’t even take bathroom breaks. TMI?)

 Before cracking the spine, I thought The Disreputable History was going to be a story about a girl who inadvertently found out about a secret society, and then exploited her knowledge of it to blackmail the members. But what I got was an intelligent story about a girl who refuses to have her ideas and knowledge ignored. Which is so much better than what I thought I was getting in to.

The book is essentially about a girl, Frankie, who returns to her fancy-pants boarding school for her sophomore year, after a summer of physical change so drastic that Matthew Livingston, the perfect senior she crushed on throughout freshman year, doesn’t even remember her. She finds herself being pursued by Matthew, and upon her invitation to a by-invitation-only event that paired her with Matthew, is welcomed into his friend group, including the charming, yet poisonous Alessandro “Alpha” Tesorieri.

After about a month, Frankie realizes that Matthew and his friends are part of a secret society called the Basset Hounds, a group that her father was also a part of. After learning that she knows something that the Bassets don’t, she seizes the opportunity to slyly insert herself into the group.

In a lot of ways, this book really reminded me of A Separate Peace. But more than that, it reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls. In it, Logan (who is very much like Alpha, but has a little Matthew in him too) tricks Rory into joining a secret society at Yale called The Life and Death Brigade. Not only did the plot of The Disreputable History remind me of this episode, but many of the male characters in the book reminded me to Logan and his group of care free, gallivanting, word-obsessed friends.

But, in the character of the eponymous Frankie is where the genius of the book really lies. I love that Lockhart crafted a smart, crafty, assertive, strong female character, who doesn’t let institutions or men or boyfriends or even other women dominate her or change her ideas. But more than that, I love that Lockhart inserted Frankie into a good ol’ boys institution and in the middle of a friend group with the good ol’ boys mentality. However, despite her gumption and wisdom, Frankie is still a teenager with a boyfriend whom she is obsessed with, so there are moments when she is submissive and does exactly what he wants her to do, but overall, she stands her ground. And when she decides she’s had enough of being lied to, she takes matters into her own hands, and leaves an impression on everyone in her life that is absolutely not delible.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly, highly suggest it. It’s the best book I’ve read thus far this year! 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2011 9:51 AM

    I loved your review! This is such an awesome book! I read it last near and wanted to reread it again immediately! I loved Frankie! I so wish that we could be friends!

  2. March 16, 2011 3:52 PM

    Oh do! Not that this book needs a champion, but if it did, I would be that champion. It is SO. DAMN. GOOD.

  3. March 16, 2011 2:51 PM

    This sounds so good! I'm going to have to pick up a copy to get signed at Sunday's TAF signing. I feel like I need to research more of the Fest authors' books now.

  4. March 15, 2011 11:00 PM

    While I was asking for book rec's today on twitter, this one came up quite a few times. After reading your review I think you've convinced me! I think this will be a good book to get acquainted with E. Lockhart 🙂

  5. March 14, 2011 5:32 PM

    This is one of my all-time favorites! I totally agree with your comparison to A Separate Peace (which is another favorite of mine.) It reminded me of that, and also of Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. Great review. 🙂

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