A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?