Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Disreputable but brilliant

I just finished E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. (Click the book cover to go to the Amazon page.) I picked it up partly because it was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and partly because I’d seen so much blog chatter about it.

Verdict: Love. It is fabulous.

The story is about Frankie, a high school sophomore at an exclusive boarding school. She gets in with the popular crowd and has the perfect boyfriend. She soon realizes neither boyfriend nor his achingly cool friends (boys) want to see her as anything else but a cute face. They rule the school as part of a boys-only secret society and won’t let Frankie be a part of it. They underestimate her, which is a big mistake. BIG mistake.

I don’t want to give away any more of the plot because it’s just so great. And looking at that description makes it seem almost like your typical YA chick-y beach read. It isn’t.

Frankie reminds me of a grown-up Harriet from Harriet the Spy. (Have I mentioned that’s my favorite children’s book? Oh I have?) She's the perfect high school heroine. Frankie is the kind of girl who goes after what she wants, on her own terms, though she’s not always sure what exactly it is that she wants. She’s likeable and believable and flawed and determined.

I flew through The Disreputable History, it was such a fast read. It’s not a long book and the action keeps going so there’s never a dull moment, which is an achievement since it’s also a book that makes you think. You think about what it means to be a girl, and how you fit into your world, how you could change the way you fit and the consequences of doing so. Do you want to fit in with the boys who are calling the shots? Or do you want to call your own shots? Or do you want to be the one to call their shots?

I finished it two days ago and I’m still mulling over all of the choices Frankie made, and whether she could/should have made better ones.

It’s exactly the kind of book I’d want to write. Fun, but with depth. Not so much depth that it’s boring or didactic, and not so much fun that it’s silly and empty-headed. (Plus it has a secret society and some creepy underground tunnels get explored. I’m only kind of embarrassed to say that right there is enough to make me pick up a book.) I got the hard-back copy on Amazon at a reduced rate (like $8 or something), so I think you can get it fairly inexpensively.

I want the teen girls I know to read it. Forget nimrod Bella and be more like Frankie! Realize that you aren’t a cute, fluffy little thing to be ignored or patronized or defined by your relationship to someone else!

I haven’t read any of E. Lockhart’s other books because the subjects didn’t seem like my thing, but now I think I’m headed to the library as soon as I get by TBR pile to a manageable size. My late fees have probably funded the construction of a new library wing at this point.

End of fangirly feminist rant. Go get this book.


Crimogenic said...

Don't read much YA, but grown-up Harriet the Spy sounds like a cool character. Don't you just love when you're read a book and you can't stop talking about it!

Christy Raedeke said...

I wholeheartedly agree! LOVED this book.

Eric said...

This isn't my genre of choice, but I have to agree that its great when you find a book you truly enjoy. Sometimes books come out just lukewarm, but finding a really good read is awesome.

PurpleClover said...

You know over the years I think I've learned to become a feminist. It's so weird. But I LOVE seeing female heros and I'm so glad when I see a book with such a strong female voice.

It makes me proud of being a girl. :)

Dang...I may have to read this one. You could have written the synopsis for this. lol. You had me hooked from the get go.

Anna Claire said...

Clover, I'm the same way. I never ever thought of myself as a feminist, like they were just left-wing bra-burners or something. But I'm always drawn to the strong female characters and feminist themes, so maybe I (we?) could be classed as a reluctant feminist :)