Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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Author: E. Lockhart
Published: First published in US: 2008. Above edition: UK, 2014. Hot Key Books.
Pages: 352
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary.
Read more about it on Add it on Goodreads
5 out of 5 stars 

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After reading We Were Liars and loving it, I wanted to read more from E. Lockhart; I’m so glad that I did! From the very beginning this book had my attention. Lockhart has a unique style, it was present in We Were Liars and it’s present in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I love the narrator style: the way in which the reader is told a story.

“…what happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer after her freshman year was a shock.”

“Frankie’s mind is a word overlooked, but when uncovered – through invention, imagination, or recollection – it wields a power that is comical, surprising, and memorable.”

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a story of an ambitious teenage girl whose eyes are opening to the ways in which girls and boys are treated differently and the exclusionary behaviour that comes with certain social circles. It is a story of someone longing to belong and be truly accepted. Someone who is enraged by people’s inability to really see her – instead they put her in a box and choose to only see cute, adorable Frankie.

I have found this to be a refreshing and intelligent book filled with social critique and feminism – as a feminist I love this inclusion!

“You let Paulie Junior walk into town and not me? Paulie Junior still picks his nose. That is such a double standard.”

“You’re so pretty now, Frankie. It’s a compliment.”
“And what do you mean when you say ‘take advantage,’ anyway? Like you’re assuming guys want something girls don’t want? Maybe we want it, too. Maybe Matthew should worry about me taking advantage of him.”

I like that Frankie questions things and sees injustices and refuses to accept them. I like that she is feisty, but underneath all that, there is also a desire to belong. She wants this group of boys – the school secret society, who are all male – to completely accept her and not exclude her just because she is female. Despite how much I liked Frankie, she also annoyed me a little at times. One reason being that she always thought of things in terms of strategy; I like that she is smart but at times that strategic thinking became too manipulative, I think. I think she becomes a little power obsessed at times but at the center of it all is a girl growing up and forming her own opinions of the world.

I also loved that part of the social critique in the book involved people and ideas that I know of through my own studies. Frankie becomes fascinated with Jeremy Bentham’s concept, the Panopticon. A prison design – which was never built – that involved a watchman in the center who could watch all prisoners at once, without them actually knowing they were being watched. So that paranoia of whether you are being watched or not led to a sort of self-governing. This then led to Michel Foucaults’ theories of how this applys to Western society, but I won’t go into this too much – sorry I digress. Read the book – it’s also educational.

This book is funny at times, thought-provoking, relevant and just a great read! Everyone should read it! What are you waiting for? Go, now. Buy it; borrow it; read it. (Although, finish reading the last part of this review first – I mean… that is… if you want to?)

I will leave you with this extract from the book:

“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.”

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t read it, does it sound like something you would like to read?

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