Sunday, January 20, 2013

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

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: Young Adult

Goodreads rating: 3.84 out of 5.00 (15, 300+ ratings)
Goodreads link

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:Debate Club.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. 
Frankie Laundau-Banks.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.

Review by Chantelle

Frankie Landau-Banks. In 2009, her story was the first young adult novel to be a finalist in the annual 'Tournament of Books', the second of which was the brilliant The Fault in Our Stars by John Green four years later. Obviously this novel was a must read!

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks follows Frankie Landau Banks from ages 14 to 16 at Alabaster boarding school, which are important years in any girls life and often years of great change both physically and emotionally. Frankie is no exception, however as her mind and body both mature, it seems as if the right people do not notice - i.e. her parents still treat her like their "bunny rabbit", and boys (in particular a certain Matthew Livingston) keep underestimating her intelligence because she's younger... and a girl. Frankie interprets this as provocation to prove her worth, and sees her opportunity in taking over Alabaster's male-exclusive secret society, the Basset Hounds.  

It's official. E. Lockhart is now my young adult version of Tamora Pierce who was my favourite author in primary school, and whose works contained sparks of feminism - with fierce, independent, female protagonists who proved their equality to their male peers. I would recommend this novel to all girls, young and old, as it's so different to the heavily romance orientated young adult novels that are currently popular; as in the happily ever after comes when the girl and guy kiss. E. Lockhart has created an intelligent, witty, addictive novel that is honestly empowering. Her emphasis on ambition, confidence, not letting others think less of yourself and most importantly, to not think less of yourself, to not underestimate your own ability to break the status quo makes this novel (I think) the voice of modern girls today. 

I fully realise that I've rooted myself into ranting territory, but I am still reeling from the implications of this novel. 

A running metaphor throughout this novel is the Panopticon, a concept put forward by philosopher Jeremy Bentham. An extension of that idea is that in society, there are many unwritten rules that people abide by due to the feeling of being watched, and so this paranoia causes them to behave 'normally'. For example, at school you're alone in a classroom and want to pick your nose but instead you think about the risks in doing so because someone might see you, such as that boy you like, or a mean girl in class, or a teacher, and so you hesitate, even though you're alone in a classroom. This was really interesting, and it's an idea that Lockhart explores and part of Frankie's motivation to execute her "psychotic" ideas. That along with her interest with neglected positives left me extremely gruntled (you'll just have to read the book). 

This novel deals with gender, identity, self worth and empowerment (to name a few); and is a novel that I wish I had the insight to read when I was fifteen. Frankie is a character who refuses to compromise her intelligence for others, who wants to be accepted and loved for her intelligence because that is apart of her true nature; and in the end, to be happy, that was most important. How amazing is Lockhart's message! Even down to the way Lockhart writes her name as 'E. Lockhart'. I mean, from the content of her novels, it is obvious Lockhart is female, however the initials make a statement. The ambiguity is another tool to tell her readers that gender does not matter, that she is as good as any male author, and she'll prove it. 

However, because her protagonist is 15, as well as (probably) Lockhart's target audience, the themes are not subtly presented. But I still couldn't help loving, and immensely enjoying Frankie's antics and thoughts. Lockhart has an incredible talent of making even outrageous situations, such as a "psychotically" ambitious fifteen year old girl who goes to a prestigious boarding school and infiltrates a sixty year old secret society, seem eerily relatable and relevant.

Welcome to my first (reviewed) Panacea Candidate of 2013. 

If you loved the witty prose as much as I did, I'd also recommend any novel by John Green

Overall: 10/10
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 3/5