Young Adult – Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

When Frankie Landau-Banks finished her freshman year, she was gawky, awkward, and looked like a little girl. Over the summer, doing nothing more exciting than drinking lemonade and reading short stories, she is suddenly transformed. She enters sophomore year tall, graceful, and gorgeous. Boys who never looked at her twice are suddenly vying for her attention. She knows its superficial, but she can’t help loving the attention, especially when Matthew, a senior boy she has had a crush on since forever, wants to start dating.

But life isn’t all cherry pop and roses at her prestigious boarding school. Matthew is part of a secret society. A strictly boys-only secret society, and one to which Frankie is very much not invited. Not to be outdone, Frankie lays plans to one-up the boys. This leads to a series of increasingly outrageous pranks from the Night of the Thousand Dogs to the Canned Beet Rebellion. But can Frankie stay anonymous forever? And what happens when the society finally comes to light?

Frankie was a fantastic character. She was fully three-dimensional, worrying about her looks and her boyfriend one moment, dismissing fashion and primping as silly the next moment. She felt like a very real teenage girl, albeit a very bright one. I loved her use of neglected positives (think ruth and reputable and pugn), and how they became a part of her everyday speech. She was quirky, which in teen fiction is often another way of saying annoying or unrealistic. But while Frankie had her quirks, she wasn’t flaunting them. She wasn’t doing things to be weird or “different” or so that people would notice her. She was just being herself, including worrying about whether people were staring at her, or worrying about her relationship with her boyfriend.

I thought the way author E. Lockhart wove the theme of a panopticon (loosely, that people follow rules because they’re convinced they’re constantly being watched) was brilliant, both as it applies to boarding schools in general, and how it broadly reflects a lot of adolescent behavior. Frankie spends a lot of time thinking about power, who has it, and what they do with it. That sounds preachy, but it’s not. Most of the time she’s trying to find a way to subvert that power.

This was a very clever book. Entertaining and funny in some parts, reflective and thoughtful in others, it hit exactly the right tone. Definitely recommended.

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