Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart

A year ago, Frankie Landau-Banks was her father's bunny rabbit. Sweet. Unassuming. Mildly dorky. She was a debate team member; regarded by the fellow students of Alabaster Prep as Zada's little sister. She went relatively unnoticed- and she was okay with that.

But in the summer before her sophmore year, Frankie goes from slight and gawky to majorly devleloped- and even more majorly overprotected than before. Of one thing Frankie is certain: she is sick of being her daddy's bunny rabbit.

When the newly sexy Frankie returns to school for the year, it is no surprise that the boys (namely her adorable, hilarious, word-obsessed crush, Matthew Livingston) take note of her new appearence. Several run-ins and a secret golf-course party later, Frankie Landau-Banks is the Girlfriend of Matthew, and suddenly privy to a fascinating realm of boy interaction. She adores Matthew, and Matthew adores her, and Matthew has wonderfully entertaining friends who seem to like her as well. Which is why, when Matthew starts lying to her (and not doing a very good job of it), Frankie is first, confused. And second, angry. Suddenly, all Frankie's hearing is no.

Can she keep her date with Matthew if his friends call five minutes before?

Can she touch the silly basset hound statue in his dorm room.


Can she join the illustrious secret society of which Matthew is King and with which Frankie has quickly become obsessed?

But Frankie Landau-Banks is not your typical YA heroine, and she is not taking no for an answer.

Instead, Frankie will infiltrate the Loyal Order of the Basset Hound. She'll get through from the outside, and under her clever manipulation, the Loyal Order's pranks are better than ever before. Surely, when Matthew sees that, he'll realize that she's more than just a silly girlfriend. Surely, they'll let her join after that.

Or, you know, not.

I know that every book and every review claims to have a different sort of lead character. There are certain traits that are very popular in YA fiction- probably in fiction of any sort- that are listed in the book's opening pages, but are not always demonstrated. Intelligence, for instance, is one of these qualities. Every heroine these days is shrewd, observant, clever.

Frankie is one of the few who has full right to all of those things. It's less of an issue of her mental capacity, though, and more of what she does with her mind. Frankie has a driving force behind her intelligence, and she uses her wit to get what she wants. She is practical, she is clever. She understands what she needs to do to achieve the things that she is after. Frankie pulls off expertly imagined and executed pranks, finds something that generations of impassioned boys have been searching for. This is all because she knows what she wants, and she is going to get it. There is definately something to be said for her reasoning behind her relationship with Matthew- she loves him, but she isn't willing to sacrifice her wants and needs to be the cute girlfriend who is never any trouble. She refuses to be the cute girlfriend, however cute she may be.

On the topic of being cute, the Basset Hounds themselves were fascinating- both the history of the society and the current members. The book was full of information about secret societies that never became bothersome or boring; E. Lockhart included anecdotes related to several real-life societies as well as the Basset Hounds. The interaction between Matthew and Alpha was endlessly amusing; they had a cunning, snappy, peculiar way of talking to each other, a specialized dialogue that only results from years of being best friends (or, you know, really fabulous writing on E. Lockhart's part). Matthew himself was not greatly appealing to me- I liked the idea of him, but he came off as very condescending, which was bad. I ended up being much more a fan of Alpha's.

The narrarator was very interesting in that he/she seemed to be somehow linked to the story. It's impossible to tell where exactly he/she fits in, but bits of first-person and chapters dedictated to the neglected positive gave the novel a bit of a Lemony Snicket*-esque feel, which was awesome.

What I perhaps loved most about the novel was it's views and approaches on gender discrimination. The things that Frankie does with the Loyal Order are not merely pranks; they are political statements for feminisim, which is a topic that has been vastly ignored in the novels that I have read recently. Frankie is not your stereotypical feminist: she is girly and attractive, she has crushes on boys and she wears cute clothes and reads In Touch. But one of the major points of the novel, I think, is that these qualities do not make you less important, less intelligent, less worthy of equal regard. Frankie fights for this idea. And Frankie, readers will quickly learn, is quite the force to be reckoned with.

Five cups of coffee with as much sugar as you want, because that just makes it better:


*For the ignorant: A Series of Unfortunate Events

PS: Snappy enough for you, Steph? :)


Heather♥ said...

I read this already, when it was still not yet a post (did that sound weird or what), but good review. Great, actually. I don't think I could have reviewed this book so long after reading it.

The Book Muncher said...

i loved this book :D

Reader Rabbit said...

Ha, nice review. Pretty much sums up everything I thought about it.

Lauren said...

I need to read this book!

Abby O. said...

I loved this book and I loved the review.

ambeen said...

Loved this book. Absolutely loved it.

Melissa Walker said...

I have this book. I need to put it at the top of my pile, obviously!