Monday, June 23, 2014

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

After reading and loving We Were Liars, the most recent bestseller from E. Lockhart, all I wanted to do was read more of her stuff. So, naturally, I looked up her other titles right away. And to my great surprise—though it shouldn’t have been!—I actually already had one of her first books—one of her biggest, most well-known books, no less—on my shelf, just sitting there unread. It had been used as an example in a children’s lit writing class I took at Gotham Writer’s Workshops years ago, and I had purchased it instantly after that session. I just hadn’t read it. *hangs head in shame*

So I remedied that ASAP.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: 
Debate Club.
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. 
Frankie Laundau-Banks.
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.

I didn't really know what to expect from this story, but I quickly found myself sucked into Frankie's world of elite boarding schools, secret societies, humorous antics, and life-changing lies. I mean, it's always fun when secret societies are involved, let's all just admit it, and Lockhart weaves in some really interesting true facts about real-life societies, just upping the intrigue. In some regards, the story is a little unrealistic and over-the-top plotwise, but this exaggeration is necessary to serve the purposes of the story, making me give Lockhart a pass. ;)

Lockhart's voice is accessible and smooth in this story, as well, and her use of the omniscient POV was one of the best I've seen in ages. It's not any easy POV to use successfully, but she managed to execute it in such a way that I really felt like I was overseeing the whole scene through a pair of binoculars, which is kind of exactly how you would spy on a secret society. I found it to be very fitting and very effective. 

In fact, I'm not sure I would've enjoyed the story as much if it had actually been from Frankie's POV. While the reader, of course, gets a lot of insight into Frankie and her thoughts/feelings, I didn't want to be in her head any more than I already was. Part of this was because I found Frankie to be a difficult character to truly like. At least not once she moved into the "In" crowd. However, someone Lockhart made me still care about Frankie, and I think the use of POV is largely why. I was able to find her relatable from an outside perspective, particularly in her need to belong and to do something meaningful even if she didn’t get the credit. 

More than any of those things, though, I found this story to be a surprisingly honest and realistic take on relationships, both friendships and romances alike, in terms what it means to know and love somebody, needing more than just “getting along,” and wanting someone to truly connect with. It really spoke to me on that level, even amidst all the high school drama, prank pulling, and sneaking around. The concept of social change also runs rampant in the novel, working itself into the story in a way that not only leaves you simultaneously impressed and appalled, but also leaves you pondering the ethics of it all.

The Last Word: A fun and quick read that will leave you thinking long after the last page. 

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