9 Rated Books Book Reviews

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

Title:The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Author: E. Lockhart

Genre: Contemporary / YA

Publisher: Hyperion
Publication date: March 2008
Hardcover/ Paperback 352 pages

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.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Why did I read this book: This is a well-loved, award winning book. On a more personal level, Carla from The Crooked Shelf told me I would love it. And then this review (and the comments) sealed the deal.


I want to hold this book in my hands, get on my soap box and say to all and sundry: here, this book, THIS book, it is a Great Book.

It begins with a written confession of pranks orchestrated by 16-year- old Frankie Landau-Banks when attending her sophomore year at the very exclusive Alabaster Preparatory Academy, an academy for privileged kids who one day hope to attend Ivy League colleges and go on to rule the world.

It proceeds to tell us the disreputable history of Frankie and how she got to that point, alternating between an omniscient narrative who not only tells us facts about Frankie’s past but also examines some of her thoughts and actions and a third person narration from Frankie’s point of view as the story moves along. It is an interesting choice of narrative and one that I think, completely works within the confines of this book.

How does a person become the person she is? What are the factors in her culture, her childhood, her education, her religion, her economic stature, her sexual orientation, her race, her everyday interactions–what stimuli lead her to make choices other people will despise her for?

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks chronicles Frankie’s journey from being a quiet, clever, geeky girl, her father’s “bunny rabbit” to someone who starts to think and to fully, completely interact with the world she lives in by observing and analysing, criticising and daring to ask questions mostly about the sometimes unspoken rules and roles that society allows or doesn’t allow her to play, as a girl.

Upon starting her sophomore year, Frankie is no longer who she was the year before, both physically speaking with her new attractive figure and intellectually speaking with her keen eye. Almost from the get go, she lands a popular boyfriend, an older boy called Matthew who is handsome and rich and also a member of the school’s exclusive all-male infamous secret society. The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds is a secret that everybody knows about but only a few get to be a part of it. Frankie knows of it, because her father used to be a member and to this date still preens when thinking about the memorable pranks they used to pull.

Unlike what the title of the book or its blurb might suggest, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is not a light, funny, breezy read. It is actually a rather difficult, painful read for many reasons although not without its humorous moments. And it is difficult and painful because difficult and painful is the path that Frankie chooses to take. Her frustration at times is nearly palpable and completely relatable.

We are talking about how Frankie knows that Matthew is a member of the Bassets but how he will not tell her that, keeping a secret that requires him to lie to her. How doesn’t see any other way to be a part, than to infiltrate the Bassets and orchestrate new pranks – pranks, I might add, that are clever and also ”creative acts of civil disobedience” .

How she loves to be a part of his group of friends, including another boy called Alpha for his leadership of the group but how she knows that her acceptance by the group is not because of HER: it in the direct relation to the fact that she is Matthew’s girlfriend and as long as she doesn’t break away from her “place”. The book is full of moments that are made of so much hurt that is almost unbearable. For example when Frankie realises that once she does something that she is not “supposed” to, like say, sitting at the senior’s table during lunch on her own, there will be repercussions and Matthew will act differently:

“When I act the way I acted, Matthew doesn’t like me as much as he does when I fall off my bicycle”.

It is painful because Frankie is an extremely complex character who both loves to be a part of that exclusive, sexist group, but who also knows that it is exclusive and sexist. She is aware that there are double standards (punishment for her acts for example are more lenient because she is a girl) and that the boys have everything cut out for them and being a part of the Bassets is about solidifying their position. She wants doors to be open for her and wants to walk through them just like they would and I can’t begin to express how awesome of a character Frankie is: she wants to fall in love and not lose herself, she is passionate, driven, unapologetic ambitious and intelligent and aware that all of those also make her a privileged girl – even though it doesn’t make it any easier when trying to break through those closed doors, doors that have no need to be closed at all.

Ana from Things Mean a Lot, in her completely awesome review of the book (which I highly recommend you to read) says it best:

Why were there no books like this around when I was fifteen? A book like The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks would have helped me immensely – it would have enabled me detect the pattern and to connect the dots much sooner than I did; and therefore, to quote the narrator, it would have helped me stop feeling crazy because the whole world kept telling me I wasn’t supposed to want the things I wanted—which include truly equal opportunities as well as a world in which my gender is not the first defining characteristic people think of when trying to make sense of (or explain away) who I am. But for the sake of all the fifteen-year-olds in the world (and not just), I’m SO glad this book exists now. It’s accessible and yet intelligent; it’s direct rather than subtle, but that’s okay because it completely works. It’s unapologetic and complex; it’s funny and heartbreaking, and it’s an absolute pleasure to read. And as I said, it’s also realistically painful: it doesn’t make light of the price that people who burst through invisible doors have to pay, but it makes you consider that it might be worth it all the same.

This is a story that resonated with me in the most basic level. I get Frankie. Every time someone would tell her that she is “harmless”, or to tell her that she is “oversensitive” or that “she is thinking too much” when she questioned something, I understood her reactions completely. It is a powerful, thought provoking book.

At the beginning of the review I mentioned that the Alabaster Preparatory Academy was a school for people who would go on to rule the world. The main difference between Frankie and the majority of those kids is thus: she is not going to go on to rule the world; she will go on to change it. I finished the book with my heart broken – just like Frankie’s – but in the best possible way and you can only understand what I mean when you go and read for yourself.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: I get goosebumps every time I read this quote.

Frankie Landau-Banks is an off-roader.

She might, in fact, go crazy, as has happened to a lot of people who break rules. Not the people who play at rebellion but really only solidify their already dominant position in society – as did Matthew and most of the other Bassets – but those who take some larger action that disrupts the social order. Who try to push through the doors that are usually closed to them. They do sometimes go crazy, these peope, because the world is telling them not to want the things they want. it can seem saner to give up – but then one goes insane from giving up.

On the brighter side, Frankie has life easier than a lot of people with similar drivers, similar minds, similar ambitions. She is nice-looking and will be well-educated. Her family has a good amount of money, though not as much as some. Many doors will be open to her easily, and it may be that she can open the ones she wants to without too much pain or strife.

And so, another possibility – the possibility I hold for – is that Frankie Landau-Banks will open the doors she is trying to get through.

And she will grow up to change the world.

Additional Thoughts:

If you liked this book and would like to read more from awesome women who rock my real-life world the way that Frankie rocked my fictional world I highly recommend you to check these blogs:

Book Gazing
Read React Review
Things Mean a Lot
Asking the Wrong Questions

And if you have any of your own to recommend please do tell!

Verdict: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a brave, thought provoking book about what feels like to be a budding feminist. It is a book that matters, with a story that matters and that does not mean that is a didactic on “how to” – there is an interesting plot, a cool story. It has above all an awesome, flawed, complex female protagonist. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Rating: 9 Damn Near Perfection

Reading Next: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel by Charles Yu


  • Jodie
    September 3, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Oh you are too, too nice to me – you run this awesome blog and tell me about all these books that will make my life better and then you go and mention my blog in a list with some of the greatest people of all time. Hugs!

    I doubt I could ever be as brave as Frankie sounds. She absolutely sounds like the kind of character I could have used when I was 15, I think she would have blown all those pony books away. And your comment about how she’s only accepted because she’s Matthew’s girlfriend makes me sadly nod, suddenly realising that what you thought was a meeting with equals is just indulgent tolerance sucks.

  • Janelle
    September 3, 2010 at 8:10 am

    I keep hearing about this book and now you’ve written this glowing review…

    Consider me sold. Thank you!

  • Carla
    September 3, 2010 at 9:16 am

    YES ANA!! I am so incredibly overjoyed that you loved this book. Frankie is my all time favourite female protagonist and you are absolutely correct, this isn’t a soft fluffy tale about a girl playing pranks. This is a story about a girl standing up for what she beleieves in, a girl refusing to lay down and let others dictate how she should act. A girl who does not believe in conformity. I just love this book and i’m glad you did too.

    And plus, people think feminisim is over and its so not. Females still sometimes get treated inferior to their male counterparts and this solidly shows that to give in and loose yourself because of the views of others is simply heinous. Fantastic review!

  • RRRJessica
    September 3, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for the linkage and compliment, and even more, thank you for your fascinating reflections on this very very intriguing book … which SOMEHOW (how DOES this happen Ana, hmmm??) just appeared on my Kindle.

  • Liz
    September 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I loved this book! I loved that she got hot and got the popular guy, but that was, basically, the start of the story and her problems, not the end. I loved that this book did not talk down to its readers. (Didn’t she write a paper with Foucault in it or something?) I too wish I could have read this at 15.

    Thanks for a great review, and for introducing me to some new must-read blogs.

  • cories
    September 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Great review! I absolutely loved this book! It was a meaty read, with a main character who is determined to change how others see her without starting out like a crusade. It’s for all the girls who refused to be limited to what others expect. I love Frankie because she lives by the “why not?” rule.

  • Jordan
    September 4, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    “And she will grow up to change the world.”

    See, I find that completely obnoxious. I hate being told what I’m meant to think, it just smacks of the author not believing that you will understand that she’ll change the world one day…and that passage makes me think the whole book is full of itself.

    But then everyone seems to like it so much! Argh, I just can’t stand the sound of this one, even from the little preview.

  • Ana
    September 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    @Jodie – Frankie is awesome, I hope you have the chance to read this one. And *hugs* back, I love your blog so much, so much. 😀

    @ Janelle – I hope you like it!

    @ Carla – thank you so much for the rec! You were totally right!

  • Ana
    September 5, 2010 at 12:00 am

    @ Jessica, if you do get around to read but don’t post a review , I would still love to know what you thought of it! Email? 😉

    @ Liz – YES! She wrote a paper on Foucault’s Panopticon. Seriously, this book is SO awesome.

    @ Cories – I totally agree!

  • Ana
    September 5, 2010 at 12:06 am

    @ Jordan – Fair enough and I see what you say, but I just wanted to clarify that it is very clear that it is NOT the author telling the reader what to think and it doesn’t come across as such. Perhaps I should have noted that the quote is taken from one of the chapters with the omniscient narrator – and it is part of the omniscient narrative to say things such as these as it often offers judgement and opinions of its own. And it says:

    “And so, another possibility – the possibility I hold for” is that she will change the world.

    I hope it clarifies! 😀

  • Ari
    September 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I LOVE this book. I bought it on a whim and it was soo…..it just made me so sad and yet happy because it is unique and like you said, painful.

    Frankie is hilarious (I love how she has her own vocabulary) and clever. Her pranks were well done and her observations are spot-on. If I could be a little more like Frankie (or Ruthie from 8th Grade Superzero) I would feel more confident in my ability to change the world. I know that Frankie will change the world and I’m so grateful for the women in this world who are like her and in their own way, changing the world.

    The last quote you shared reminded me of why I love this book. I need to read it again. This is one of the frew books I’ve ever read with a feminist-bend that was more obvious (besides The Kayla Chronicles) and I liked it all the more for that.

  • Nymeth
    September 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    An awesome review, Ana, and I feel so honoured that you cited me! That bit when she thinks that when she takes her own initiative Matthew didn’t like her as much as when she falls off her bike broke my heart too. As did many others <3

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Book Review: Fly On The Wall by E. Lockhart
    October 18, 2010 at 4:13 am

    […] did I get this book: After reading and LOVING The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I had to try something else by this author. Now, she is an […]

  • Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart Audiobook - The Busy Bibliophile
    June 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    […] Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart Audiobook06/09/2012 By thebusybibliophileTitle: The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks Author: E. Lockhart Publisher: Brilliance Audio, June 20th 2008 Narrator: Tanya Eby Sirois Format: 6 audio discs, 6 hrs and 9 mins Source: purchased from Audible.com Goodreads summary: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.My thoughts: This was the story of an intelligent girl who wanted everyone to finally see her as a grown up. Her family still saw her as a little girl and her friends saw her as a geek. She was desperate to be seen as a young woman capable of everything the guys can do.The plot was just average, I didn’t feel it was especially strong or weak. Basically, Frankie wanted to break out of her mold and become a young lady, and we followed her as she attempted to make that happen. This is a common wish in young girls everywhere, and I can see how this book would appeal to them.Most of the characters were fine, though some lacked motivation. I never understood why Matthew liked Frankie or kept ditching her to spend time with Alpha. And why did Alpha never admit he was the one Frankie met at the beach? Several questions like those lingered. I liked Frankie’s character okay but her whining got to be a bit much. Your boyfriend is in a top-secret male-only society, and you can’t join? Get over it. Instead of asking her boyfriend about it, or saying “I know about the Bassets, what do you say you let me in?”, she hinted and hemmed and hawed, then got all bent out of shape and set out to get revenge. In the end she just came across as a spoiled little girl to me. She had a strong personality but I didn’t like how she could only be strong from behind the scenes, or in a passive way. She never came right out and spoke up about what she was feeling.The dialogue was wordy, but not in a bad way. Frankie and her boyfriend (and really, all the kids at the fancy boarding school) were very intelligent, and you could tell in the way they spoke to each other. Very little, if any, slang. Frankie liked to spout out random things, and sometimes that could be annoying. There was one section that I swear lasted 10 minutes and was just Frankie going on and on and on about Neglected Positives, a grammar rule she made up. Luckily, I found the 10 minute lesson on Panopticons interesting. Was this a book or a class in school?Nothing too sexy or hot here, though it wasn’t for lack of Matthew’s trying. I liked how Frankie stood her ground around him, in that little way. Other than that, there was a little flirting but it was innocent stuff. Again, I was surprised by the lack of teenage tawdriness. Come on, people. You are young and hormonal and living basically without any adult supervision. I feel like you’re really missing out!The audio was fine. I think it started out a bit rough, almost like Tanya Eby Sirois was looking for the right tone, but I think she settled in just fine.The cover is cute and matches the story brilliantly. At first glance, it could almost be some sort of Nancy Drew, teenage-mystery-solver type story, but once you read the novel, it matches.The Sum Up: An entertaining book that won’t stick with you for long.Connect with E. Lockhart: Goodreads website blog twitterPurchase: Amazon paperback Kindle Barnes & Noble paperback NookOther opinions: Teen Reads Chick Loves Lit The Book Smugglers […]

  • Friday Fragments: On Reading | Something More
    November 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    […] brilliant, funny and feminist Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (here’s the Booksmugglers’ review). But I admit, the title made me dubious about this one. I’m not keen on YA that’s all […]

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