The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Book Poster Image
Boarding school rebel story more insightful than most.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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."


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.)


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


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 15-year-old Written bylady of the library March 11, 2010

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... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 12-year-old Written by[email protected] October 25, 2009

Not sure what age would like this

The vocab was out of my ten year old's league. She is a strong reader, but it was still too erudite for her. She felt it was pretentious. We read a few cha... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bysunnysideup7685 July 10, 2012

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 th... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 2, 2011

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 p... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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