The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart caught my attention in a big way this week when it became the first YA novel to be included in The Morning News Tournament of Books. Reading the descriptions online made me even more antsy to read it. That very night I went to the Hoboken Library to pick it up.
The Book Description (from Amazon):
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.
This is the story of how she got that way.”
I’m not one who gets self-conscious about my reactions to books on the train. I admit, I don’t laugh out loud nearly as long or as hard as I would at home or somewhere more private, but I don’t mind smiling or chuckling as I read a book on the train. I’ve even leaked tears on the train because of a book. My opinion is that people can see you have a book in your hand (that you’re reading) that is causing that reaction. It doesn’t look crazy or silly, as if you had no headphones, companion or book and were just sitting there laughing to yourself. With the sad adult reading rates it’s probably a good thing for people to see others enjoying a book, or being emotionally affected by one. However, if I was a person to be self-conscious about all this, I would have been terribly embarrassed reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks on the train. This book joined me for two morning commutes, and I was grinning from ear to ear and chuckling* through most of it. I couldn’t contain it.
One of the best things about this book is that Frankie is one of the best modern female characters I’ve read in YA fiction in a long time. (My Vox Neighbor Ginger Sister recently posted a lament about the recent lack of strong, smart, female heroines.)
Not only is Frankie a majorly awesome girl, she struggles with understanding and accepting gender roles in her boarding school. She spends a lot of time thinking about and trying to figure out her new role in the “popular crowd” – a spot she holds because she’s dating a very popular senior boy, Matthew. She gets frustrated with how fickle they all are toward people – especially the girlfriends of the boys in the crowd. She’s not ok with the fact that they act like her friends, but if she and Matthew were to break up, she would be invisible to them again.
What makes Frankie such a great female character is that she’s smart, clever, funny, headstrong and outspoken, AND she also has doubts, regrettable actions and decisions, problems, and internal conflict. She seems real. It’s not something I’ve seen a lot in recent YA literature. It’s something I’m going to search for more as I attempt to keep up with all the wonderful new YA books that the awesome bloggers I follow are raving about.
As if all that weren’t enough to make her a fabulous character, Frankie discovers the author P. G. Wodehouse and the result is so awesome that I don’t want to say anything more about it because I don’t want to spoil it.
Highly recommended to anyone looking for an awesome heroine and a story that keeps you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed.
For more information:
E. Lockhart’s website
E. Lockhart Interview by the National Book Foundation (this book was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature)
NY Times Review
*Apparently enough time has passed for me to get over my aversion to all forms of the word “chuckle” that I developed from reading the Twilight series.
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