The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Monday 22 May 2017

Fifteen-year-old Frankie Landau-Banks has grown up a lot over the summer. She's no longer daddy's little girl - and almost immediately after starting the new semester at her highly prestigious school, she bags goofy-but-gorgeous Matthew Livingston as her boyfriend. They get along great but then Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of a boys-only secret society that specialise in 'hilarious' pranks. Which hardly seems fair... especially when Frankie knows she's smarter than any of its members. And to prove this, she's going to teach them a lesson.

Impersonating lead member Alpha by using a fake email account is surprisingly easy, and soon Frankie is setting the boys up with all sorts of ridiculous schemes and sending them on wild goose chase after wild goose chase. Alpha's not prepared to lose face and admit it's not him sending the emails - but the fun can't last forever, and soon Frankie will have to choose between what she think she wants, and the reputation she deserves.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks fell short in a few areas for me, but it definitely not in the title area.

Going in to this I expected a very light, cheesy - even cringe-worthy - high school story centring around the pretentious teens that are ever present in young adult fiction. For the most part, that's what I got. It's a very light read that doesn't require a lot of thought from the reader (unless they want to ponder female independence and feminism along with Frankie, but I definitely think that's more of a choice than something Lockhart forces). There are - thankfully - no pretentious teens in this. Annoying ones, don't get me wrong, but they don't quote obscure poets and their oddities mostly come from the fact that they've actually learnt things, not just memorised things for cool points. There's actually character development, too, as you get to watch Frankie go from blindly accepting everything her boyfriend does to beginning to question whether how he's acting is okay. It again ties into the idea of feminism that is an undertone throughout.

The biggest problem I had concerned the narration more than anything. The story is told in third person, but there seems to be an omniscient narrator who chimes in with their opinion every now and then, but we never learn who they are or why they're doing it. The whole book reads almost like a verbal account of Frankie's time at school, except for the fact it sounds nothing like a verbal account. It's odd and it made for a reading experience I don't really want ever again.

Things did take a while to really get going: we spend the first hundred pages learning about Frankie's boy troubles and not really doing much. Around the two hundred page mark, things do start to pick up and we start to unravel the mystery that is the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. The hunt to find out the truth is a little trivial, and could even be viewed as childish, but ultimately it's a bit of lighthearted fun and made the book quick and easy to get through.

I can see why so many people like this book. It's certainly much better than I was expecting. But that doesn't make it perfect by any means.

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