Friday, November 07, 2008

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

Plot Summary:
Frankie Landau-Banks doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer. Even when it means she can’t join her boyfriend’s all-male secret society – a society that does nothing but sit on the golf course and drink beer. She’s smarter than any of them, and knows she can take their lame pranks to a whole new level...

For me, this story started out a bit slow. I wasn’t so interested in awkward, fourteen year old Frankie. All I needed to know was that she “bloomed” over the summer before her sophomore year, and had heard her father talk about the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds.

After Frankie settled in to school for her sophomore year, things got very interesting...and I couldn’t put it down.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

Frankie is unique. She has the unusual gift of objectivity. That is, she is able to set her emotions aside and see things for how they really are. Not how she wants them to be. Not how others want her to see things. Not how her emotions or preconceptions might be skewing the facts. And she is able to act, based upon this objectivity, in order to get, or keep, the things she really wants. That’s partly why she’s such a good debater and strategist (the rest is good, old-fashioned smarts).

This kind of personality is often seen as cold, calculating, and heartless. Clearly, Frankie is none of these things. She truly loves her boyfriend, Matthew. She cares for her friends. And she still found ways to get what she wanted without sacrificing or hurting them. Someone like her would likely end up in a position of power, like the CEO of a successful company. Or a high position in politics. And she wouldn’t get there by stepping on those around her.

In the end, Frankie loses what she’s gained. She loses her boyfriend, she loses her anonymous position as leader of the Order of the Basset Hound, and she nearly loses her best friend. But what does she learn from it? To do things differently next time? Or to be more careful and not make the same mistakes again? Nope. The lesson she comes away with is “I guess I have to hide parts of who I am, or everyone will look at me like I’m a freak.” I find this both frighteningly real, and sad because it’s so real.

Because of who she is, who she’s been established to be throughout the whole novel, I don’t think the ending fits her character. Frankie has consistently shown us that she can think strategically, even when her emotions are rearing and she’s terrified she’s going to lose her boyfriend. It’s clear that she can’t help it – this is just a part of who she is. It’s how she functions, like breathing.

Hence, I just can't believe that she'd tell her boyfriend how she was the real mastermind behind all the brilliant pranks that Alpha had been taking credit for. That's a huge mistake that someone like her could only make if she were caught up in massive emotions. But she isn't. Right before she tells him, she has a logical, even-keeled discussion with herself and realizes that Matthew will never see her for who she is, never accept her as the strategic genius who provided them with so much fun.

If Frankie is who she’s been set up to be, she would never have fessed up in this manner. By telling Matthew, she’s handing him all the power...clearly something she doesn’t do. Instead, she’d have figured out how to retain her power.

So, I think that, instead of telling Matthew, she’d have told the school board on her own. Maybe even written the confession letter before it had been requested. This clears Alpha so he doesn't get expelled, and it puts him in her debt. Also, I could definitely see her stealing back the confiscated Disreputable History book and giving it to Matthew at the most opportune moment. Thus, putting the Order in her debt. Sure, she’d still be kicked out of the “in” crowd. But she’d probably be famous for years after she’d graduated. Not speaking up means she remains anonymous.

That’s what I think the real Frankie would have done. And I’d have cheered her on, because I absolutely loved her.

There are not many heroines written with Frankie’s personality. It’s refreshing to see this explored from all sides, and not shunted into the usual “bad guy” or “sidekick” box. So, thank you, E. Lockhart, for turning objectivity into a superpower. No matter how it may look, it's really not so bad.


C.R. Evers said...

I may have to check this one out! Thanks for the tip!


Tabitha said...

It's a great book. I can see why it was nominated for the National Book Award. :)

I'm reading all the nominees right now. They're taste usually runs with mine, so I'm looking forward to them. :)

Unknown said...

Argh! I want to read the review, but I need to read the book first! I must start reading faster!! :)

Marcia said...

Wow, I've forgotten a lot about this book. :)Your comments about the ending are really thoughtful and make me want to reread the book.

Tabitha said...

Beth - LOL!! I've had similar reactions to some books you've reviewed. Seems like there isn't enough time in the day... :)

Marcia - I'd love to hear your thoughts if you do re-read it. Or, even if you don't, I'd still love to hear your thoughts because they're always good. :)

Gottawrite Girl said...

Ugh, I am so behind on reading. Too much writing, and NOT even for the novel! Ughola!

Tabitha said...

I know what you mean. Seems the only reading time I get these days is at bedtime, and that only lasts for five minutes because I fall asleep. :)

Hope your writing stuff gets done quickly so you can read AND work on your novel! :)

Kelly Polark said...

That is awesome that you do make time to read regularly. I'm FINALLY reading Harry Potter with my nine year old! (yes, I'm just a little behind with the times...)

PJ Hoover said...

Sounds like a great read! I'm not sure where it'll be on my list, but I'll for sure add it!

Tabitha said...

Kelly - I read every night at bedtime, and sometimes in the afternoons on the weekends. Some nights I can't stay awake longer than five minutes, and some afternoons are so quiet that I read an entire book. :)

PJ - glad to hear it! It's a really good book, whatever I think about the ending. :)