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

4/5 stars

Last semester, my English teacher assigned us free reading so we could enjoy reading for pleasure. After partially reading Winger by Andrew Smith, another teacher at my school, I stopped. Every single time a woman entered the scene, the protagonist just HAD to comment on how attractive they were. I barely remember anything else that pissed me off in this book.

But then I found The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, the book that brought me back to a time where I read instead of playing on the computer.The whole story could be seen as a criticism of rich people, but it was mainly focused on feminism. Jewish sophomore Frankie Landau-Banks enters a relationship with popular, heartthrob senior Matthew Livingston. At their extremely expensive boarding school, a generations old fraternity is the secret in-crowd, and Matthew is part of it. Frankie gets fed up with Matthew keeping secrets from her and denying her intelligence, so she sneaks into the meetings of The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds and uses the power of e-mail to control them. She formulates elaborate pranks with political, feminist meanings to be carried out by the boys of the Basset Hounds, but she hides behind the identity of one of their leaders, Alpha. Alpha gladly takes credit for the successful pranks, much to Frankie’s dismay. At the end, Frankie admits she was the brain behind the pranks, but what was once praise for Alpha became disappointment in Frankie, a double standard.

I loved how this operation was a metaphor of history, where Frankie, a 15 year old woman, does something amazing and historical, but Alpha, a 17-18 year old boy, gets credit. In fact, this was acknowledged in the first prank of putting bras on all of the portraits in the school, none of which belonged to a woman.

However, I did not like how Frankie would twist the words of feminism to fit her situation. She would say Matthew gave her a shirt, and her sister, Zada, would tell her it was marking his territory on her. Frankie claimed it was feminist because he gave her, a goddess, an offering. Though I agree with Zada, I do not think the shirt situation is sexist in itself.

I would still consider this a feminist book, for it takes a conventional high school love story and criticizes everything that is wrong wrong with these fantasies. He sees her as a prize, but she is not something to be won. He thinks of her as a delicate bunny, but she has a brain and accomplishments. He is willing to debate abortion (his position was not clearly disclosed, but I have a feeling he is anti-choice), but he will not back up his girlfriend when she discusses feminism. He argues with her over meeting her ex-boyfriend, but she knows she will be fine on her own and has no reason to leave Matthew over her ex. He gaslights her during this argument, as well. On top of that, he prioritizes his sexist best friend, Alpha, over Frankie.

This book brought me back to a time where I was naive and uneducated about feminism. Learning how these popular people pretend to forget or not know in order to demean someone else reminded me of past and present relationships with people. I believe I have been gaslighted by those whose company I once enjoyed, again, in relationships with people. In past personal relationships, I am sure my intelligence has been ignored. I was 15 when I was new to feminism and learned to think for myself.

I see this as a book that changes the outcome of the typical teen/young adult novel.

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