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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Disreputable History Interesting, But Not All That Likeable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Frankie Landau-Banks wants what most sophomore girls desire: a good education, a hot boyfriend, and entrance into her school's most exclusive group. This year, she'll get all three. But at what price? Through the antics of the title character, E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks asks the eternal question: How far would you go to get what you want?

After an unremarkable freshman year at Alabaster Prep, Frankie's returning with a vengeance: she's sprung out from under her sister's shadow; developed a killer figure; and sharpened her natural wit. This year, she's determined to get noticed. Her plan succeeds far better than she ever expected it would - she lands a place with the in crowd, courtesy of rich, gorgeous Matthew Livingston. Frankie loves the camarederie between Matt and his buddies, loves being a part of his inner circle. As time goes on, however, she notices a disturbing trend - whenever Matt's friend Alpha beckons, her boyfriend goes running. Even when it means breaking dates with her. Worse, Matt's vague about his whereabouts, leaving her to wonder where he and his buddies are sneaking off to all the time. So, Frankie follows him one night. What she discovers gives her a shock and a thrill - he's part of a secret society called The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds.

Frankie knows all about the Basset Hounds thanks to her father, Senior Banks. When he and his high school cronies get enough wine in them, they love to reminisce about the secret, decades-old club to which they once belonged. Frankie knows enough about the club to know it's a silly, boys-only society that exists mainly to let its privileged members "experience the thrill of rebellion, a glimmer of unconventiality, and plain old naughtiness without risk" (151). Still, she can't help herself. She wants in, if only so that she can have Matt's full attention. There's only one problem - whenever she drops hints about joining, her boyfriend denies the club's existence. Clearly, there's only one way for her to be a part of the exclusive group - beat them at their own game. Frankie sets her brilliant plan in motion - soon she has the Basset Hounds barking at her command. Finally, she's got a little of the power the boys wield so easily over her. Only, someone else is taking the credit for her genius, stealing the spotlight she deserves. Will her greed prove to be her undoing? And what happens when silly pranks carry serious consequences? Frankie is about to find out.

Although I finished this book last week, I'm still mulling over my opinion. On the one hand, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is an absorbing, fast-paced read that kept me turning pages. It stars a smart, independent young woman who goes after what she wants with a vengeance - endearing traits that mark her as a stand-out heroine. Plus, the book makes a powerful statements about individuality and the dangers of power and obsession. On the other hand, I didn't find the characters that likeable; in fact, some of them were downright annoying. I also got tired of the feminist rant, the teenage angst, and the melodrama. Lockhart also has a tendency to go off on odd tangents (like the whole "neglected positive" thing), which are not only distracting but also confusing. So, I don't know ... I'm really ho hum about this one. It's an engrossing read for sure, but did I like it? I'm not sure. Would I recommend it? Maybe, maybe not. I guess I feel about Frankie as I do about this entire book - interesting, but just not all that likeable.

Grade: C

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