The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

 
Boarding school rebel story more insightful than most.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The narrator predicts Frankie will go on to head the CIA or preside over a unit of organized criminals. She copies keys to sneak into areas off-limits to students at her exclusive boarding school, and impersonates a boy to execute a number of pranks on the school, including putting bras on all the school portraits and statues; stealing a statue and demanding a ransom; and delivering an edible basset hound to a school donor. Frankie says Matthew makes her feel squashed into a box -- "a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); a box for young and pretty girls who were not as bright or powerful as their boyfriends."

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Frankie and her boyfriend spend a lot of time kissing, and one time he pushes her against a tree with his whole body. Frankie believes Alpha is having sex with his girlfriend (also a senior) and wonders if Matthew wishes they were having sex too. Frankie's older sister tells her to use protection and explains that the Planned Parenthood near campus gives out free condoms. (They never have sex.)

Language

"Piss," "ass," "boobs," "WTF."

Consumerism

Some product mentions, mostly to show the students' elite status (such as driving Mini Cooper cars).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Students drink at a party on the golf course; secret society members drink beer at their meetings (and make getting beer one of the club's priorities). The society's notebook describes members in the 1970s (including Frankie's dad) smoking pot. Drinking is presented casually, as just something kids do.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this is fairly tame for a young adult novel, with a little cursing, a few sex references, and some beer drinking among teens. A secret society stages several elaborate pranks, but no one gets hurt. The book will appeal to well-read girls who don't mind a few vocabulary lessons tossed into their novels.

What's the story?

Frankie Landau-Banks starts her sophomore year of high school at an elite boarding school with the benefit of a newly curvaceous body that gets her noticed by boys. She starts to wonder, though, if getting attention for her "Ladies" is really that much better than being ignored as she was the previous year. Frankie wants boys to admire her devious mind -- and when she discovers her hot boyfriend is a member of the school's secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, she decides to prove she's not a harmless "bunny rabbit" anymore. Armed with the society's Disreputable History notebook, she pulls off some of the school's most notorious pranks. But is leading the gang worth losing her boyfriend?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

As a boarding school fable, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS works pretty well. As a grrrl power social manifesto, not so much. Lockhart seems to be grasping for a Message -- she throws in class lectures, P.G. Wodehouse, and one of Frankie's papers on the Cacophony Society -- but never follows through with Frankie actually doing anything that matters. An omniscient narrator informs readers of Frankie's deviousness, but Frankie's achievements are putting bras on school portraits, sitting at the senior table when she's a sophomore (gasp), and making up words (a self-conscious, albeit whimsical, mannerism that undermines her insistence that people take her seriously).

Enjoy this for its clever dialog (a New York boy insists any pizza outside city limits be renamed a DOD -- disk of dough), elaborate pranks, and occasional psychological insights. By the end, though, readers may feel like that boy eating a non-New York pizza: not quite satisfied.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the Frankie's idea of the panopticon -- what unwritten social rules do they follow at home, work, and school? Is there a social value to public displays like dressing as clowns to ride a bus? Do readers agree that Matthew doesn't really "see" Frankie? Is what she did the best way to go about getting a boyfriend or girlfriend to know who you really are?

Book details

Author:E. Lockhart
Genre:Literary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date:March 25, 2008
Number of pages:345
Read aloud:13
Read alone:13

This review of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was written by

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Quality

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Teen, 16 years old Written bysunnysideup7685 July 10, 2012
age 14+
 

A Hypocritical Worthless book

Overall the book was okay, although the plot was somewhat dry and the overall message of the book is not a good one. The lack of a good message was something that irked me though out the whole story. Many of the guys in the Basset Hound Society, especially Alpha act like they can do whatever they want because their parents have money and they are the ones in the popular Senior crowd. This includes objectifying girls, especially their girlfriends. Frankie's boyfriend in particular treats her like she needs to be protected and can not function on her own without his help. In the end Frankie upset with how her boyfriend is treating her decides to show the boys she is tough enough by taking control of their secret society and making them pull pranks that vandalize the school. This is one of the main problems I had with the book. Frankie knows her boyfriend is not treating her the right way, nor his friends. But, because she has had a crush on him for a long time and she wants to be popular, she lets them continue treating her this way and instead seeks revenge on them by secretly running their club. What is ironic though is that Frankie is a strong advocate for women's liberation from men and women having equal equality, which is the other half of her drive for wanting the boys to like her. She feels that if she can do something impressive and make the boys like her she'll finally be accepted. Frankie's character is very selfish in this way and on top of that she lies to her best friend while all this is going on and completely shuts her out. What I find the most revolting though is her family does not punish her when they find out what she's doing, but instead they stop treating her like a little girl because they feel she has proven herself by what she has done. The book also includes references to birth control and sex. The boys of the Basset Hound Society also drink beer, smoke cigarettes and marijuana.
Kid, 12 years old February 2, 2011
age 12+
 

Love it!

This is a smart, fun book. I checked it out from my public library because I needed something to read during my family's long car trip. This book was the perfect length and Frankie is a very like-able character.
Parent of a 12 and 15 year old Written bylady of the library March 11, 2010
age 12+
 

Delightful girl power

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and so have the girls I've recommended it too. I would say 7th or 8th grade+. I don't usually like "girlie" books (as I have sons), but this one was a delightful read.

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