Age Group/Genre: YA/Contemporary
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
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.
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. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
A YA Feminist Manifesto
Okay, guys, can we talk about how awesomely feminist The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is? Early on in the book, Frankie claims she heard all this feminist talk from her older sister who’s in college, and she almost kind of brushes it off as pretentious jabber that she is subjected to. But throughout the book, Frankie oozes feminism. I mean, the whole book is about her deciding that women should be a part of this secret society at her boarding school, and she goes about becoming a sort-of member of said society.
Other characters, like Frankie’s roommate, also comment on the inherent sexism within their school, like how Frankie is a sophomore who suddenly became hot over the summer, and all these guys are suddenly interested in her, but they don’t even remember that they met her the year before. Frankie also points out the elitist attitude that is so abundant within the group she becomes a part of:
“Frankie was beginning to realize that the kind of selective
memory exhibited by Dean, Star, and their ilk was neither
stupidity nor poor recollection. It was a power play–possibly
subconscious on the part of the player–but nevertheless
intended to discomfit another person who was in some way
perceived as a threat.”
I love this part, because it really reminded me of all the snobby people I’ve dealt with in my life, and how they pretend to not remember you or not remember something you’ve said, or in some way act like you are stupid or inferior, just to keep their upper hand. And in some ways, it’s a lot like what sexist people do to keep women in their place.
Matthew, Frankie’s boyfriend, represents not only the gatekeeper into this elite world at their school, but also the slyly sexist male. The kind who isn’t outwardly saying things like, “Women should be barefoot and pregnant making me dinner,” but who instead says things like, “Stop being so sensitive,” and “Don’t cry,” when women simply find fault in something that a man is doing, or express their own, opposing ideas. Matthew is the kind of unaware sexist, one who is just used to the way society has ingrained sexism within itself, a lot like a white person who is unaware of their white privilege.
Frankie not only spouts off feminism throughout the story, she lives it, by taking matters into her own hands, and deciding to become a sort-of member of the secret society. Actually, she becomes a sort-of leader of the society. But she also recognizes that not every girl wants to be a leader of the society. Not every girl wants to start a revolution, nor does every girl feel the need to do so to be a feminist. And Frankie even ends the novel recognizing her flaws, and recognizing that the things she did might not have had the big change in her society that she would have liked, but that in subtle ways, maybe she helped pave the way. At least, that’s how I interpreted the end, as a sort of hope that although her revolution was quite small in the grand scheme of ending sexism, she may have helped girls after her have a bit easier of a time creating a larger revolution.
My rating for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart:
5 big stars. Lockhart also gets some of my Bonus Points for secret tunnels (50,000 points), for reminding me of Gilmore Girls (50,000 points) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Frankie’s name reminds me of Fanny Eubanks of Omaha) (25,000 points), and, of course, for the awesome feminist message throughout the story (1,000,000,000 points). Lockhart just might be a contender for my Bonus Points Awards next year, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more books by her in the future.
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