Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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


Title: The Disreputable of Frankie Landau-Banks

Author: E. Lockhart 

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

In all honesty, I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, especially since I found the first third of the novel to be excruciatingly boring and hard to get through, not to mention I hated the narration style with a passion. Yet, despite all that, Lockhart's novel truly spoke to me. It's marketed as being a feminist novel and while in some ways it definitely is, in more ways than one I feel as if it is simply a coming-of-age story about a girl who was discovering herself, what she wanted from life, and how she wanted to be perceived. 

Frankie attends Alabaster Prep Academy, the private institution which her older sister and father attended as well. Now a sophomore, Frankie has grown over the summer into a beautiful young girl from the once scrawny kid she used to be and consequently, has captured the attention of Matthew Livingston, the senior everyone wants to date. When Frankie and Matthew begin to go out, Frankie begins to notice that Matthew seems to keep secrets from her, thus, she stumbles upon an all-boys secret society and sets out to beat the boys at their own game, hoping to get Matthew to confess his secret doings to her in the process. What really happens though, is quite different, clever, and can only be described as genius! ;)
Frankie looked into his face. He genuinely liked her, she knew. Maybe even loved her. He just loved her in a limited way.  Loved her best when she needed help. Loved her best when he could set the boundaries and make the rules.  Loved her best when she was a smaller, younger person than he was, with no social power. When he could adore her for her youth and charm and protect her from the larger concerns of life. (Page 313) 
In my opinion, The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks is the perfect novel of today’s day and age. Not only is YA Literature being bombarded with female protagonists who are distinctly weak and rely on men, but it is female authors who are creating characters like these. Thus, the character of Frankie, of a girl who wants to be known and loved for herself, for her potential, for her brilliance and not for her ability to listen to her boyfriend, do what he says, and agree with his every action, is startlingly refreshing. The Disreputable History... is a story of many things - secret all male societies, school pranks, and feminism - but at the heart of it all, it is the novel about the relationship between sophomore Frankie and her senior boyfriend, Matthew. You see, Frankie only infiltrates her boyfriend's secret society because she wants him to trust her, to see her as his equal, and to quit distinguishing her from others solely because of her gender. I think these are qualities that every woman should strive to achieve in a relationship - equality - but in some ways, I almost think Lockhart takes the character of Frankie a bit too far. 

While I loved this novel, Lockhart portrays Frankie as a "type." She is the type of girl who has been underestimated all her life, who has been lied to so that the perpetrators lying to her can feel in power and who has simply been excluded from the close-knit friend circle of the Basset Hounds, the secret society, which she so desperately craves. Thus, because she is this "type," she becomes a feminist and resorts to standing up for herself. I liked this - I really did - but I didn't like how Lockhart categorizes Frankie into one type and other girls as another. I wish she had been able to find a balance because while I admire Frankie and hold her up on a pedestal for exposing the truths that every young woman should strive to attain, she almost goes too far. I guess my qualm with this can be summed up to be that Frankie is that feminist who refuses to let a man even hold a door open for her and what I really wished for this novel to be was about a teenager who found a balance between securing her rights and being willfully feminine and adored, but unfortunately that didn't happen. It isn't the fault of the novel, for it is impeccably written and gets its point across perfectly, it is simply my own fault as the reader. 

Nevertheless, for all my adoration of this story, I can see why many people would be thrown off by it. I, on the other hand, was seemingly able to connect with Frankie due to my own life experiences - I fear that without them, I don't think I would have felt much of a draw to Frankie, which is another unfortunate fault of the narration. (I think the only time when I’ve enjoyed the type of narration where the narrator talks back to the reader in a seemingly cryptic way is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, so if you’re not a fan of this style, this might be a little tough for you to get through.) You see, Frankie feels left out by this secret society her boyfriend attends and while it seems like a silly thing to get so worked up over, I actually understood Frankie perfectly! India, as you may or may not know, has a history of denying equal rights and freedom to women. Thankfully, this is changing in today’s society and women and men are treated equally; nevertheless, there did still remain a few restrictions in more traditional villages, as I learned upon visiting my grandfather’s home when I was merely twelve. While visiting the local temple near his home, which had a very powerful deity, I first became aware of the fact that my being a woman made me so drastically different from my younger brother. How? You see, my father and brother were permitted into the temple to an area where only the priest is allowed. When I went to follow them, I was denied because I was a girl. I know, it seems silly but it made such a marked difference on my life. When I questioned my father about it later, he said it was an old custom, but being a very old-fashioned man, he also added that it was a blessing to be born a girl as he did not have to pay a tax on me. This was the first time I was made aware that my father paid a tax for each member of his family and the money went to our family temple. Rather than placating me though, this only made me angrier as I was now so inconsequential that I wasn't even deemed worthy to be paid money for existing! (I later learned that the reason this was a good thing was because the money paid on behalf of my father and brother went to buying gifts for me, which obviously placated me immensely because that just meant MORE BOOKS, but by the time I learned this it was just a little bit too late for my inner-feminist to recede inside me.) Nevertheless, the point is, I was able to connect with Frankie simply because I had experienced injustice in my life merely for being born a woman. I think most people can relate to similar experiences in their life and thus will be able to connect with Frankie, but based solely on the narration, I would definitely find it difficult to understand where Frankie’s strong emotions stemmed from.
A tiny part of her wanted to go over to him and shout, "I can feel like a hag some days if I want! And I can tell everybody how insecure I am if I want! Or I can be pretty and pretend to think I’m a hag out of fake modesty – I can do that if I want, too. Because you, Livingston, are not the boss of me and what kind of girl I become." (Page 79)
The Disreputable History... isn't a perfect book, but it is one I would recommend to everyone. It deserves to be read and the messages and themes it brings out are ones that every woman needs to understand. Furthermore, Frankie is such a strong, smart, and witty character than you cannot help but want to be her friend and give her a good ‘ol slap on the back for the pure brilliance of her ideas. While this novel definitely did have its fair share of flaws, I think the overall feeling of excitement, hope, and joy that it leaves with the reader, as well as some of the most memorable scenes ever, make this a truly phenomenal novel. It's a book that exudes such power and confidence and femininity that you walk away from it feeling so proud to be a woman. (Take that Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele and every other Mary Sue out there! HA!) In summary, The Disreputable History is just a story of how one girl takes down an all-male secret society and proves that girl power is awesome. Now, who doesn’t want to read a book like that? ;)

22 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, YES! I am so, so glad you enjoyed this, Keertana!

    I agree that Frankie is refreshing but yes she was a certain type of girl and there are a series of videos of authors discussing this book - I'll find the link - I haven't watched them all but they're good.

    Also, I love that you could personally connect via your experiences. All girls and women should feel equal, hopefully one day is the case.

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    1. Thanks Mandee! I really loved this one and if you find the link, do send it to me! I'd love to see it! I might just google it and see if I can find it myself - it seems so interesting! Yes, I do agree that all women should feel equal in this world and while I think we've definitely come a long way and have achieved this in certain nations, others still repress women to a very large extent, so hopefully someday we won't be constantly fighting for our rights! :)

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  2. Hmmm. I'm curious about this one Keertana! It's always nice when you can relate to a narrator and that your own life experiences provide the thread to help link you together, but I'm not sure about the narration wherein Frankie talks to the reader. I haven't actually read a book like that so I don't know how I'll react to it, it may not bother me at all. I definitely want to find out though:) Love that Frankie is a strong female lead too, no relying on men for her. WIN!

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    1. Just to clarify: Frankie doesn't talk to the reader. We have an unnamed narrator telling the tale and she speaks to the reader occasionally and offers her input on Frankie's personality a lot, so it was a little strange for sure. I'd love to see what you think if you read this though, and Frankie seriously is such a strong character! I loved her! :D

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  3. I've heard so many good things about this one! I tried to get it on audiobook, but the tracks were all about 10 seconds long, which made my iPhone freak out...I digress.

    Now I'm thinking I need to try to get hold of a physical copy so I can finally read Frankie! Great review! :)
    - Lauren

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    1. Thanks Lauren!(: I'd love to see what you think of this one - I think you'll really love it! I'm not a huge fan of audiobooks, but I'd definitely recommend getting a physical copy of this one to read! :D

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  4. walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =)

    Regards,
    http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

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    1. Thanks!(: I hope you have a nice day too!

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  5. Another great review for this book! I've seen this all over Goodreads and think it's about time I read it myself. I'm glad you were impressed with this book in the end despite the rocky start. Frankie definitely sounds like my sort of character and I can't wait to meet her. Brilliant review, Keertana! :)

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    1. Thanks Sam! I'd love to see what you think of this one and I think you'll really enjoy it! I hope you get a chance to read it soon! :D

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  6. I LOVE that you included your personal experience in your review, Keertana! Hello little Keertana and her feminist view! ;) I think I've missed something amazing all this time! The way you described this book make me want to run to the nearest bookstore and buy myself a copy! <3 That's just how fantastic your review are, Keertana! <3 ;)

    And have I mentioned how much I love the quote you picked? Love is supposed to limitless, so if it has limit... it's not love, right? ;) Or maybe that's just me and my romantic side hehe! <3 x)

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    1. Thanks Hilda! LOL! Yes, I became a feminist quite young, didn't I? I really liked this book, so I hope you get a chance to read it soon! It's amazing!

      Thanks!(: I don't usually use quotes in my reviews, but I loooved the quotes in this! :D I agree with your analysis of it though - I think we all have a little bit of a romantic side to us! ;)

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  7. I enjoyed this book so much. As you said, not perfect but I loved the ideas and the 'girl power' aspect of the story.

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    1. Thanks! It was such an awesome girl-empowered book, wasn't it? :)

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  8. Great review! I've heard many good things about E. Lockhart and her books, specifically The Disreputable History of Frankie Landeu-Banks. I agree with you that there are tons of stories out there with females who need to be rescued. But there are also tons of stories where females don't need to be rescued because their strength lies in a physical weapon. Frankie doesn't sound like either of those types, so I'm curious to read about her strengths. And, yes, who doesn't want to read something that shows how awesome women can be?

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    1. I love E. Lockhart and I've read nearly all of her books now, so I'd highly recommend them all. Frankie is such a unique and intelligent type of woman, so I loved her character and I really think you will too, Amanda! I can't wait till you read this one and I'd love to see your thoughts on it! :)

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  9. I think this is such an interesting and insightful review! I started this book, was REALLY enjoying it, but then I made the mistake of flipping to the end and lost my desire to finish it. Everyone raves about this though so I want to give this another shot! I especially liked what you said about relating to Frankie and the issues you brought about 'types'.

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    1. Aww, that happens to me a lot too, Elena, so I totally know how you feel! I hope you give this one another shot though since it's a truly remarkable novel! :)

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  10. I listened to this one on audio and I really struggled with Frankie's voice. I see where you're coming from and why you felt so strongly about it, but I got stuck at her being a type, just like you pointed out, and I felt that her behavior was pretty exaggerated. I do recognize the quality of Lockhart's work, and I ended up giving it three stars, I think.
    Your reviews just keep getting more detailed, observant and beautiful. :)

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    1. Aww, thanks Maja! :D I understand how you struggled with Frankie's voice - it definitely isn't one that is easy to relate to. I think if Lockhart had made Frankie a more easily accessible character, this novel might have been more of a success, but regardless, I think it struck its intent rather well and I'm glad you still liked it! :)

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  11. Oh wow, I'm impressed you rated it so highly after struggling for that long. I got through about 5 minutes of this on audio and had to stop, it was terrible, but I did intend to go back and try reading a physical copy. I'm so torn on whether or not I will actually enjoy this one. Frankie sounds half like a character I can get behind (whoohoo for standing up and wanting equal footing with the man in your life), but half like someone I'd find grating (the TYPE). I get annoyed by exaggerated behavior these days, but I really do need to read some E. Lockhart already, so we'll see. =)

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    1. I've heard a lot of complaints about the audio actually, so I think you should try it in paperback. I hope you wind up liking it, even though it's tough to get into, but I think ultimately you'll enjoy it by the end. I do find the TYPE grating as well, but the overall message was so powerful that I adored it. I'd recommend starting with The Ruby Oliver Quartet first though, simply because it isn't as heavy and if you start out with this, you may not want to read more Lockhart which would be a shame as I love her! :)

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