The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is an intriguing and enticing book, written by E. Lockhart.
Frankie Landau-Banks is tired being her father’s good little ‘bunny rabbit’. Now at a boarding school and with a gorgeous new senior boyfriend, Matthew Livingston, Frankie is no longer the girl to take no for an answer. Especially when ‘no’ means being excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the most unexpected places. Not when she knows she’s smarter than all of them. She also knows Matthew is lying to her. And there are many, many pranks to be done.
At age 16, Frankie Landau-Banks is possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she came to be that way.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I desperately wanted it to be another E. Lockhart book that stole a place in my heart and would remain there forever. I wanted to love it as much as I loved We Were Liars. I started reading this book with incredibly high expectations just because of how much I loved We Were Liars. After reading that book, I had immense respect for E. Lockhart and definitely expected amazing things in this book. Although this book was quite good, it didn’t reach my expectations and for me, it was no match for We Were Liars.
One things that I liked about this book were the overall themes. The book’s main theme was power – the enticement of it, the desire for it and the understanding of it. This book was also about the power of ambition and how far unchecked ambition can lead a person. This book is ultimately about a young woman who is trying to become the person she wants to be and stop being her father’s little ‘bunny rabbit’ and show people that she’s not just a harmless pretty package. She wants to show everyone, her boyfriend and his friends in particular, that she isn’t just a sweet and sensitive girl who will do anything to please them. This book is also about feminism and how when a man does one thing, they’re told how good they are and how much of a legend they are, and sometimes when women do the same thing, they’re pinned with negative words and labels. Frankie knew what she wanted – to be respected. I think that sends a positive message to everyone that regardless of their sex or gender or life choices, everyone should be given the opportunity to be respected and also to have that respect taken away when they no longer deserve it.
However, I have a few criticisms about how Frankie tried to achieve respect from her boyfriend and his friends. She wanted to assert power by infiltrating the boys’ secret society. Sure, that was one way to show that she was just as smart and inventive and brave as any of them, if not more so, but it didn’t feel like she got much empowerment from that. In the end, I didn’t even feel as though she got much more respect than in the beginning of the book. There were only small changes and people only acted a little different, but it was hardly drastic.
The ending of this book was one of the things that annoyed me most. I didn’t see how she really gained the respect of the boys she was trying so hard to get them to recognise her for who she really was. It felt a little rushed in the end. I would have liked more closure and to see what happened perhaps in the future. You know what I would have really liked to have seen? Frankie creating a secret society of her own, except where everyone has equal power and both genders are welcome. That would have been far more satisfying. I felt like everything Frankie had done hadn’t been recognised as it should have and I was expecting this book to go out with a bang.
I didn’t really like the characters in this book. A lot of the time, Frankie seemed quite whiney. She was always complaining about something. I understand that she wanted to be a part of the secret society, but her voice was just a bit annoying at times. She was always thinking of what other people would think about her and there was this whole scene about her in the cafeteria thinking of which table to sit on and I felt like shouting, You’re 15, not 12! Just sit somewhere! And then she was embarrassed and regretting the decision to sit where she sat, and the whole experience just left me feeling unconvinced of how she was going to pull off all these ‘master plans’ if she didn’t even know which lunch table she wanted to sit at.
I think that the high school can be seen as a representation of our own messed up society. Men and women are supposed to be equal in society today, but there are still instances where they’re not treated that way. Even if the boys and girls were allowed to sit at the same table in the cafeteria, there was still that secret society of boys that wouldn’t let any girl join, even if they proved their worth. I liked this book mainly because it tells readers that you don’t just have to accept the way things are and that every one of us has the ability to change the world, even if only in small ways. I liked how Frankie realised if she wanted something to change, she had to act. And she also realised that not saying anything was just as bad as accepting it. She questioned things and acted in ways that drifted from society’s expectations, and I admired that aspect in her.
I would have liked to have felt more connected to some of the other characters. A lot of them didn’t really have any backstory and this book often didn’t give us insight into the character’s past. I wanted to know more about a lot of the characters, but I never got that information. The only character I really understood was Frankie. I loved the first part of this book at the beach where she wanted to walk down to the shops to get an ice cream because it showed how her family treated her. I really liked how when her parents told her she couldn’t walk to the shops in a bikini and she questioned that if she was a boy or if she was ugly if they would let her. I also really enjoyed when she bumped into Alpha, though she didn’t know who he was at the time, and gave him her half-eaten frozen custard. I liked the interaction between them and I also liked it when they finally met again.
The writing style of this book felt different from most of the other books I’ve read. This book is told in third person, but it also has some other narrator who adds in little pieces of information throughout the book. This writing style wasn’t really my preferred style to read, but it was okay. One thing I did like was the inclusion of emails. They were really interesting to read and I liked how Frankie could easily pretend she was someone else without arousing much suspicion.
This book was an enjoyable read, even though it didn’t quite match my expectations. Reading about the pranks Frankie pulled was really fun. I didn’t really feel connected to any of the characters besides Frankie and I wished some of the minor characters had more depth to them. The overall themes of this book were interesting to read about, but I wasn’t very satisfied with this book’s ending. I’d give The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart a score of 7 out of 10. Even though I didn’t like this book as much as We Were Liars, I’m still very excited to read what E. Lockhart writes next!
A huge thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!