The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
This novel by E. Lockhart is a standalone novel, unlike the previous Lockhart title I reviewed. It’s a coming of age story (isn’t most YA lit, really?) with a bit of mystery and girl power thrown into the mix.
Set in a boarding school in the Eastern United States, the setting doesn’t overshadow the story. The author doesn’t include a lot of useless details about class and residence. Very few adults at the school are mentioned, and the few that are serve a purpose. Other than that, the boarding school setting is essential to the story, as it really couldn’t happen anywhere else.
The protagonist, Frankie, is a sophomore (Grade 10) who was semi-invisible in her first year at the school. She stuck to academic activities, like Debating (!) and was fairly dependent on her older sister, Zada. Now Zada has graduated, and Frankie “got hot” over the summer holidays. She’s not so invisible anymore, and quickly ends up with a boyfriend who’s a pretty big deal at the school.
There are sort of two storylines in this novel. The main one (and the one from which the title is derived) is the existence of a secret society at the school. Frankie knows a bit about it, and doesn’t really like what she knows. She is determined to find out more, regardless of the results. Frankie is smart and (for lack of a better word) spunky girl, and I enjoyed reading about her.
Frankie’s not all “I am woman, hear me roar”, though, and that’s what provides us with the second storyline. Frankie is learning how to be in a relationship, and Lockhart manages to portray a pretty true-to-life “first love” scenario. At one point, Zada says to Frankie, “‘Don’t let him erase you,'”(130), and I thought that was a lovely big sister thing to say. In fact, a lot of the dialogue is nicely written and realistic. There’s some swearing, but it’s not over the top. Like John Green, Lockhart’s teenage characters are smart without being smarmy, and funny without being too funny.
This novel is fairly long (342 pages), but Lockhart mixes things up by including emails, articles and even a paper that Frankie writes for a class assignment. This break from normal narrative keeps the story moving along. Lockhart includes bibliographical information for the articles and Frankie’s paper, which is an interesting touch — she did a fair bit of research for this novel.
The end is satisfying and makes sense, given what happens in the novel. There’s a sense of hope, which I liked; it could have gone the other way, but I think the readers would have been turned off by a hopeless ending.
I’m still a fan of E. Lockhart, and I think I’ll grab a few more on my next visit to school. I’d recommend this book, but give yourself some time to read it, as it’s not a quick read.