June 23, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Sorry for my brief absence. I've been busy preparing for vacation. (More reviews of mine are available here. On the other hand, I've nearly completed my blogroll. (Finally.) After that, I just need to make the blog colors more gender neutral.

By E. Lockhart

Might I say that it is a shame this cover isn't textured? Yes, there's some texture for the seal but the high-contrast envelope image begs to be touched and the slickness of the cover is a disappointment to the fingers.

It's rather alone as a disappointment. THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS features what I've come to expect from E. Lockhart - comedy, characterization, and competent writing. However, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY is no fluff book. Frankie struggles to be recognized as an equal by her male peers and her family. She does this by orchestrating grand pranks at the Alabaster Preparatory Academy using the manpower of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Frankie is clever, ambitious, strong, and feminine. But E. Lockhart does not paint her as perfect.

She pushes things to the limit. She enjoys power. Her plans, while well-executed, do not have the expected effect on the populace. She's high-minded, reckless, and many of her actions should not be emulated. For all that, she's a wonderful heroine. She doesn't play nice, but she plays for the right things. Girls should be frustrated with being condescended to, and they shouldn't be underestimated due to a lack of a Y chromosome. (Actually, one of the book's few flaws came after the climax, so I don't feel right discussing it in the review, but it has to do with this concept.)

I also like that the boys who make Frankie so frustrated in THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY aren't bad people. They're just average boys. They make mistakes, but they aren't simply evil male chauvinist pigs.

Lockhart also plays with the way she tells the story. She begins with a framing letter and anecdotes, building an excitement for what Frankie will become despite a rather innocuous beginning. The tone is playful, but ominous. Lockhart plays with language not only through the structure, but with the dialogue. Both Frankie and her boyfriend Matthew enjoy wordplay. Frankie's is inspired by P. G. Wodehouse; Matt's comes from his inner copyeditor. Lockhart's choices come together to create a unique voice that helps THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY rise above her other novels just as much as the unconventional Frankie.

I highly recommend this novel. It's not perfect, but it has a spark to it. It sticks out in my mind from the other novels I've read recently. There's hijinks, anger, love, and plenty of food for thought. Frankie has good ideas and bad ideas, but many are ideas that should be heard and then pondered further.

You can find out more about E. Lockhart on her blog or website THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS is in stores now, along with HOW TO BE BAD (co-authored with Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle).


  1. I really want to read this one. But it's hardcover...and "losing" the library's books (even though I specifically remember handing them in!) has put me in debt.

  2. Nice review. Check mine? It's at http://rowijo.void-star.net/?p=86

  3. Nice review. Can't wait to read it.


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