The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I saw this book in a classroom library about 5 years ago, and I've wanted to read it ever since. I should have gotten to it sooner--this book rocks.
Some people have complained that this book wasn't feminist enough, but since I didn't go into it with any inklings of it being a feminist novel, that didn't bother me. It's about a 15-year-old girl who is just now beginning to realize that life isn't fair--because she's a girl. She's not a feminist. She's only beginning to be bothered by life's double standards, by the guy's-only exclusivity of her school. She has barely begun to think of these things, so how can she be a feminist?
Frankie is in love with a guy, although their relationship never feels very deep to me. Maybe it's because of all the secrecy that keeps them apart, as he's a member of the secret (male-only, of course) society on their elite boarding school campus. Frankie hates the secrecy, and the doors that are closed to her in all areas of her life, but most of all, that she can't become a member of this society and become even closer to her boyfriend, to share everything with him. Does this sound feminist?
I thought Frankie was clever and a fun protagonist to go along with. Sure, she's a bit nuts, and a bit of a stalker, but still, she was fun. I don't think this book should be some kind of guide for feminist thinking or anything, but I do think the author did a good job in showing the double standards of society, of pointing out that kind of exclusive thinking and how unfair it is. I think she does a good job of showing how it feels to be in this minority party, to show how it can drive a person nuts that they can't do anything about it.
I loved Frankie's antics, but I think if this was a feminist novel, she would have wanted to start her own club for girls, which I kept waiting for, but it never happened. Also, I think our protagonist would have had to have a better reason for wanting to join the boys than wanting to impress her boyfriend's friends and get closer to him. She would have had to be a better friend to her roommate, and the other female characters would have been better developed. Thinking of this book as some kind of intro to feminism is probably not a good idea. Thinking of it as an excellent read with a fun, engaging protagonist and a fast-paced plot, along with a bit of an examination of the unfairness women face every day in things as inconsequential as high-school bonding rituals makes for one of the most unputdownable books I've read this year. For a while, I've been running across big disappointments in the contemporary YA section. I've been waiting for a book that would suck me in and not let go, and this was the one.
Rating: 10+ No cursing, very mild sexual situations (think kissing), and no violence.
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