Book Title/Author: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Publisher/Year: Hyperion 2008
Genre: YA Contemporary
Other Books From Author: The Ruby Oliver series, Dramarama, How to Be Bad, Fly On the Wall
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In the summer between 8th and 9th grade, Frankie transforms from cute debate club nerd at her prestigious boarding school to suddenly having guys take notice of her for her new, more adult-like figure and her witty demeanor. She finds herself in the arms of her senior crush, Matthew Livingstone, and ushered into the world of his fascinating and elite group of friends. As she gets closer to Matthew and his friends, she starts to feel excluded from parts of his world that she can’t enter — an all male secret society that she knows her dad was a part of that has Matthew sneaking off in the middle of the night and pranks happening around campus. Frankie thinks it’s crap that, as a female, she can’t be a part of this group when she knows she could think of more genius pranks so she takes matters into her own hands as she hides her knowledge about the secret society from Matthew and his friends.
On the story itself:
I have always had a weak spot for fancy schmancy boarding school stories and have loved the idea of a secret society since my days of binge watching Gilmore Girls with my college roomie and watching all about The Life And Death Brigade that the (smokin’) Logan was a part of. So immediately the setting of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (and isn’t the title just SO intriguing??), along with the premise of this novel, hinted towards a good time for me.
This book was so fun in terms of the plot. These boys have their secret society and their pranks and Frankie decides she can do better and masterminds her own series of elaborate pranks while keeping up appearances with Matthew and her friends. It’s perfectly paced as you get this perfect balance of her scheming and her just being a normal student/friend/girlfriend that’s trying to be a part of her boyfriend’s world and trying to fit in. You can’t help but cheer her on as she masterminds these pranks, feel tense wondering if she’ll get caught and secretly cringing as she maybe starts to take things too far.
Confession time: I was totally a master pranker in college with my guy friends — we put white mice in the girls dorm below us, launched water balloons at people walking, egged the college vans as they drove from campus to the dorms and captured ducks outside the pond and put them in the common area in the dorms. I had to outrun campus security, fall into a pricker bush and got duck poop all over me. Deservedly so. I’m SORRY, alma mater. I am. So naturally, I was giddy about Frankie’s plotting and pranking and her outwitting everyone!
The real make or break deal of this novel lies in if you like Frankie — which I absolutely loved her. The girl wasn’t perfect by any means but I loved how strong she was and how she wanted to just prove that she could be like one of the guys — I could totally relate to that. She didn’t want to be excluded from the boys club because she had a vajayjay. I loved how she explored what feminism was and what it meant to her and I think that’s important for girls to think about — what feminism is and looks like lived out. I think she made mistakes and had some skewed views but ultimately she learned a lot about herself. I mean, what 15 year old girl can REALLY know exactly what feminism is and what it looks like in your life. I just loved watching her grow and learn — even when it was painful and you wanted to be like “GIRL YOU ARE ACTING CRAY!” Plus she was sassy, strong and had some majorly awesome pranking skills.
On the audiobook:
This was one of the audiobooks I listened to while working out so my experience was a bit choppy because it wasn’t like it was a long car ride or something. I thought it was easy to follow and the plot worked well in the audiobook form. I didn’t feel like I was too lost and rarely did I have to go back to re-listen to something. The only thing I had a hard time was, and I’m quoting my friend Heidi from Bunbury in the Stacks on this, is that the narration kiiiind of “makes Frankie sound like a bit of an asshole” and not as endearing, despite her flaws, as I found her to be. So if you give this a go on audio and you find yourself hating on Frankie, try to switch to an actual book. It might help you but if you are still annoyed — you might just fall in the camp that just doesn’t like her as I alluded to before.
I really enjoyed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks! It was a ridiculously fun boarding school story that not only had some serious mischief & pranking involved but also weaved in the story of a girl trying to figure out her place in the world dominated by men and hold on to her feminist ideals. There are plenty of mishaps and cringeworthy moments as to be expected but I loved Frankie, her spunk & sass and watching her grow!
For Fans Of: boarding school novels, snarky and sassy female characters that show strength without being of the literal “kickass” variety, secret societies
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you enjoy it or have a different opinion than me? What was your favorite Frankie prank? How do you think about Frankie’s notions of feminism? Do you feel like she grew in them?