Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart

Have y’all ever seen the film Serendipity? I mean it’s not that great. I’m fond of Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack, and I still recognize that this film just isn’t that great. The premise is, they meet once, they have a great date, but Kate Beckinsale wants to leave it to chance whether they meet again. Chance doesn’t work out for them. A few years later, John Cusack’s about to get married or something, and he goes on a mission to track down Kate Beckinsale because she’s the one that got away. He really wants to find her but they keep just missing each other and eventually they find each other and live happily ever after which is sort of a spoiler but not really because it’s a romantic comedy even if not a very good one.

I have known about Frankie Landau-Banks for a while, and I felt it would surely be the perfect book for me. But we just kept missing each other! Ana reviewed it and my library never had it in when I visited. My mother got it on PaperbackSwap (allegedly), yet I never saw it at our house when I was there. I got it for my aunt for her birthday, but because she’s not one of the people I feel okay about reading their presents before giving them to them, I didn’t read it first. For those of you following at home, I am John Cusack in this analogy, and The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks is Kate Beckinsale. Except that I am not about to spend the rest of my life with only one book and if I were, I wouldn’t blow whatever it was off for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It isn’t that good an analogy. I’m not really sure why I opened with that. Let’s move past it, shall we?

Frankie Landau-Banks is entering her sophomore year at college prep boarding school Alabaster. Over the summer she has come true all at once, with the curves and the hair and all the other things that make sophomore girls irresistible to senior guys. Senior Matthew Thornton duly notices her, and they start dating, which is great as far as Frankie’s concerned. But as much as she enjoys dating him, she cannot help noticing certain things about their relationship: that she hangs out with his friends, not he with hers; that she is not necessarily welcome to spend time with his friends independent of him; that he gently and affectionately teases and belittles her, and expects her to behave (as a girl) in a certain way. Most annoying of all is his habit of blowing her off to spend time with his friend Alpha — which, as Frankie gradually realizes, actually means spending time with the school’s secret, all-male society.

Determined to make her mark (to prove herself indelible), Frankie infiltrates the secret society and organizes secret acts of naughtiness around the school. Some of them are just for fun, and some are making genuine comments on the way the school is run. We know at the beginning of the book that Frankie will eventually be caught, so it’s all a question of — what kind of changes is she making to the school, and to her relationship, and to herself?

I liked it that Lockhart doesn’t let Frankie make any of the easy choices. Frankie decides that she is worthy of notice, and sets about proving it. She likes being part of a pair with Matthew Thornton, and wants to maintain that. She just wants them both to know that the two of them stand on equal footing, rather than being Matthew’s subsidiary on account of her age and gender. If this occasionally gets a bit heavy-handed, it’s more than okay with me because I enjoyed Frankie so much. I’ve read several reviews where people said they didn’t necessarily like her, but I really did! I thought she was great! I wish she could age a few years (oh my God, I got really depressed just now thinking of how many years she’d have to age), move to New York, and be my friend. Hooray!

Everyone on my blogroll (practically) has read this book, so I’ll just direct you, once more, to the Book Blogs Search Engine.

43 thoughts on “Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart

  1. I thought there was a lot of great stuff in this book about gender and class. I didn’t *love* the book but I did love the ideas that Frankie struggles with, and the insights she gets. I guess I didn’t like that she tried to prove her worth via pranks, and I never really “got” Alpha. But I think it’s a good book for teens, nevertheless.

    • It does, it does. There is this bit where Frankie is upset because Alpha and his friends make her feel “delible” (like, erasable). I thought that was an excellent line.

  2. lol – it was a fine analogy πŸ˜‰

    I loved Frankie too! I wish she could be my friend. It IS depressing to see the age difference between ourselves and the protagonists of YA novels increase, though :S

    • Thanks…you don’t have to humor me though…

      I am so old now! I am watching the old Miracle on 34th Street over again, and this one character that I thought was a massive grown-up person of mighty age is really only seventeen. Seventeen! How did I ever get to be so old?

  3. I have read a lot of other good reviews of this book, and it’s been on my list for a long time. I am now going to move it up into the purchase sooner rather than later column after reading your review of it. I think Frankie sounds like a really intriguing character and I am kind of curious about how I would react to her and the things she does. Thanks for enticing me to buy this book. I don’t know when I will get to it, but when I do I will let you know how it goes. I also loved your movie analogy!

    • It’s interesting to see people’s reactions to Frankie. Some of the characters in the book, and some reviewers, seem to think she’s a jerk, but I didn’t at all. I think she’s brilliant! πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages but haven’t yet – it sounds like a good Christmas vacation read, though, so maybe I should look for it at the library soon!

    And ha, Serendipity – one particular scene in that movie stands out in my memory. I saw it with my mom, and during the scene where they’re in Central Park looking up at the sky full of stars we both elbowed each other and laughed, because it was so ridiculously unrealistic – so many stars! There’d have to be a blackout to be able to see that many!

    • I remember that scene! I was actually thinking of that the other day in Bryant Park, because John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale go skating (I think). I even looked at the sky, and I couldn’t see a single star. Not truth in advertising. :p

  5. This was one of those books that I’d seen around everywhere, but didn’t really know anything about it, but saw it on sale for $3, so took a chance and bought it, and it wound up being wonderful! I *heart* boarding school books! And this one in particular – I would totally be friends with Frankie!

    • I love boarding schools with my whole heart. They are all in their dormitories, and they have secret food parties, and they sneak out — awesome. Despite knowing that I’d have hated a boarding school if I’d gone to one.

  6. You know what I liked about it? How, once she embarked on her course to make her presence visible, she couldn’t stop. She had to keep being her real self, even when the consequences were terrible, because the consequences of self-effacement were so much worse. She’s like the anti-Bella Swan.

  7. I must say, I quite enjoyed your analogy and thought it worked well. It didn’t occur to me that your story with Frankie would have the traditional chick flick ending!

    As for the book itself, I liked it until the **spoiler? maybe?** bit near the end where Frankie sort of loses control. I wanted it to be her decision to end the game. I wanted her to do it on her terms, not someone else’s. I’m being vague since perhaps not everyone has read this yet! **end (maybe) spolier**

    I do agree that an older Frankie would make a good friend, though!

    • Well, thanks. But really there could have been better analogies. :p

      I know what you’re talking about, and it makes sense, but you know, she’s only fifteen. How long could she really have kept it up?

      • True. I was ok with it being over. I just wanted her to be the one to **spoiler** turn herself in instead of someone else doing it. It seemed like the Frankie of the rest of the book would’ve taken herself to the office instead of letting someone else rat on her. **end spoiler** Only a minor quibble πŸ™‚

  8. I have been meaning to read this one for YEARS and it’s definitely sitting on my bookshelf right now. πŸ™‚ I will absolutely make it a priority next year!

    Also, I kind of love Serendipity. At least I did when it came out, I’ve only seen it once or twice. But Kate Beckinsdale + John Cusack = awesomeness.

    • I know, I love them both! Every three years or so I develop a great longing for Serendipity, and I have to watch it as soon as possible. But it’s not my favorite.

  9. I can’t believe you don’t like Serendipity!! It’s such a cute movie. I hope you like You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Meet Sally. . .

    I’m getting off the subject! πŸ™‚ I haven’t read Frankie yet either though I keep hearing how great the book is. I’ll pick it up soon!

    • I don’t not like it! I do like it! I just recognize that it’s not the best film in all the land. I like When Harry Met Sally, I’ve never seen Sleepless in Seattle, and it has been years since I saw You’ve Got Mail, but the bookstore closing made me sad.

  10. I loved Frankie so much!! I thought she was so incredibly awesome πŸ™‚ So was your review πŸ™‚ Isn’t the age difference just becoming scarier and scarier between YA characters and us? LOL

    • I try not to think about it! But Memory of Stella Matutina always mentions whether the characters in her books are older or younger than she is, so I’ve started noticing it more. 😦

  11. I have a copy of tDHoFLB, but have yet to get around to it. It’s high up on the queue though because of the reviews for it on The Book Smugglers and Things Mean A Lot, oh and pretty much every blog I follow ever.

    I am glad you enjoyed this πŸ™‚

    And, sigh, I have not seen Serendipity.

    • I know, I glanced at the Book Blog Search Engine results and couldn’t believe how many of my favorite bloggers had read and enjoyed it.

      Serendipity is fun but not great. Your life isn’t terrible without it.

  12. I feel like this book is blowing up blogosphere (probably because the main character has such a rock star name). I should get on it. I probably will, five years from now πŸ˜‰

    • I thought it was going to take me much longer to get to it, despite the awesome title and reviews. But I found myself desperate for some YA boarding school action. πŸ™‚

  13. YA protagonists always depress me just an itty bitty bit, since they tend to be so cool and I am so very much too old for them. Like, I totally want Spencer from Maureen Johnson’s Scarlett books to me my big brother, but he’s almost ten years younger than me, so it is forever an impossible dream. (Plus, he’s fictional. This adds to the impossibility in ways I hardly need elaborate upon).

    • I think his being fictional makes it MORE viable, not less, that he could be your big brother someday. If he’s fictional you can catch him at any point in his fictional lifestyle and take him as your brother. It works.

  14. I’ve seen this book reviewed, but I’d forgoten about it. Thanks! It sounds like something I’d really enjoy. And thanks for the heads up that Srendipity is just “meh.” Why aren’t there more really good romantic comedies?

  15. isnt it matthew livingston not THORNTON
    and boarding school books rock
    i probably woudlt like to go to a boarding school though

  16. You may be older than Frankie, but you are younger than E. Lockhart. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

    The whole age thing is trying. I was just reminiscing about a past potential friendship that maybe didn’t gel because Der Mann and me were younger than the other pair but probably mostly didn’t gel because we weren’t as cool as them and drank much less. Then I realized I was making this reminiscence to someone four years younger than me. Four years feels like the outer limit of peer-hood. I assume everyone is either four years younger/older than me on the internet, unless I make a conscious effort to focus my foggy sense of their age.

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