I don’t think I’ve read a book from the aughts for a while now, but when my good friend told me that I “simply must read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks,” I took her word for it. She has great taste.
Let me start by saying that I greatly enjoyed E. Lockhart‘s coming of age story. It was witty, it was funny, it was dramatic, it reminded me of how confusing and weird being a teenager can be.
Frankie kind of reminded me of a cross between Mean Girls and Being Mary Bennet (absolutely fabulous, 10/10 recommend. I really should’ve done a bonus blog of that masterpiece, shoutout to JC Peterson for such a lovely Austen adaptation!).
Like Cady Heron, Frankie infiltrates the popular club at school; but unlike Cady, Frankie is the mastermind and none of the popular guys (it’s a sexist, exclusive club) know it. Also, somewhat like Regina George, Frankie is suspected of having issues with aggression. Now for BMB–like Marnie Barns, Frankie is sharp, quite possibly the sharpest tack in the box, and she’s often underestimated. Also like Marnie, she’s not unlikeable, but she’s not quite the heroine either–she is but she isn’t, she’s complex, there’s character growth of a sort, you love her and yet at the same time you’re like “wow.” Also, she goes to an elite boarding school–relatively small potatoes in comparison to their personalities, but setting matters.
So let me tell you a little about Frankie and the first semester of her sophomore year at Alabaster–
Her older sister has graduated and gone off to Berkeley, so Frankie has more or less lost the majority of her social standing and is pretty much your run-of-the-mill second year high school student. She’s pretty–thanks puberty–and so now more boys are paying attention to her, but only one boy’s attention matters: Matthew Livingston. He’s a senior, and when she crashes her bike, he “rescues” her, takes her under his wing, thus beginning a whirl-wind high school romance. *Swoon*
But Matthew has secrets, and his bros, and it drives Frankie absolutely nuts that he’ll blow her off to go hang out with them. It also drives her crazy that he, like her family, don’t seem to trust her with information or the ability to be independent.
After one particularly annoying let down–they were going to see the Muppets together–she follows him and finds that he’s part of a secret school organization. The same organization her “Old Boy” father was a member of decades earlier.
Long story short, Frankie finds a way to assert herself into Matthew’s life (even though he doesn’t realize it… which also irritates her) and her dominance over the secret organization.
I LOVED THE PRANKS. I’m honestly not one for pranks IRL, but Frankie’s fictionalized plots were hilariously complex and sophisticated. I loved how they all had deeper meanings (#CommMajors #ILoveRhetoric) and how she would try to prompt discussion when she “came across them” with the rest of the student body.
It was just so relatable.
Not because I’ve taken over a secret organization and was the puppeteer manipulating the situation, but I have planned something or made something and no one realized it was me.
Lockhart just wrote her in such a unique, hilarious situation that can only exist in movies, and yet Frankie felt real.
I loved the dialogue, I loved the character relationships, I loved the character development.
It’s not as though Frankie or Matthew or any of the other characters had these huge epiphanies and grew up, but it did feel like they all got that little bit of maturity that comes with another year in high school.
It’s an entertaining read that I’m sure will appeal to readers who enjoy girlhood romance–they make out, she “loves” him, but I’m hesitant to say it’s a real love story–and readers who like stories full of shenanigans. Frankie really is an entertaining character and I was so engaged by everything in the book, I couldn’t put it down!
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Next time I’ll be partnering with Inkberry Books for a review of Kelly Daniels’ memoir Cloud Break, California.