Tag Archives: John Flanagan

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Review

Derp. I was so busy with the subject of tomorrow’s post that I forgot to type this up. Oops?

That said… *whines* I don’t wanna review this! It isn’t a story, it’s a political agenda pretending to be teen fiction! Ugh. Oh well, here we go anyway. If someone isn’t going to say it, I guess I will.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (God, ain’t that a mouthful?) follows a teenage girl, the title’s Frankie, who has finally blossomed like all teenage girls wish to–spectacularly. She gets the cutest boy in the school for a boyfriend, considers herself in love with him, and everything seems to be looking up. But when her prince charming is sworn into a boys-only secret society dedicated to pranks, Frankie decides to take over to get her boy’s attention back and gets swallowed up in her plans until she almost can’t find what she started out wanting.

The most basic premise of the book is at least moderately intriguing. Girl trying to enter an all-boy secret organization and entering a prank war? That could be really interesting if handled well, and at least a decent start if it wasn’t. If the girl protagonist had strong motivations, and if the society was given a key character to serve as an antagonist, there would have been the bare bones of a realistic teen novel that even I would read.

Which I guess gets to characters. Frankie was set up to be the main protagonist, but… I won’t call her weak because of the traits she was given, but she is a weak character because of the way the writer conceptually set her up. She is a geek, who blossomed into a smart beauty. But she wants to run with the boys, while being acknowledged as appropriately feminine. I have no idea what her reasons were for provoking the society into a prank war, mostly because there was no consistency to her. Rather than being a solid character capable of standing on her own, “Frankie” served as a vehicle for the theme the writer was pushing. (More on that later.)

As for the side characters, well… none of them were really memorable. (I had to double check Wikipedia for names, and I hardly ever have to do that.) It doesn’t help that the pseudo-antagonist, Alpha, is first introduced to Frankie like a love interest, and then the love interest, Matthew, was completely bland. There were other characters–quite a few of them, actually–but none of them served a strong enough purpose. Really, it felt like a harem anime with as little thought was given to the introduction of characters.

I would talk about plot now, but, really, what plot do you speak of? Seriously, about half the book for me was wading to what the summary had promised me–the pranks. The summary and opening letter had a modest intro, and then listed what I assumed was only the major pranks Frankie was responsible for. It took half the book to get to the first prank, and for the record? The list is all the pranks that happen. All of them.

The only good part of the book–if I’m forced to acknowledge any of this travesty as “good”–was the world. I don’t read very much in non-fantasy worlds, and if I do, it’s usually super unrealistic, such as Heist Society or Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books. But the boarding school for Disreputable History had just enough detail to paint a clear picture, without being weighed down too heavily with unnecessary information. Even the Basset Hound Society was created in a way that at least seemed plausible to me. I guess what cinched it was the clubs. I attended a high school where “clubs” was a really loose term. While I was technically part of several, including the debate team on a technicality (thought it was really competitive speech), most of the others were just code-names for class related work. The speech and debate team was where I really found a niche, and I think that was what gave me a point of relatablility to the world.

For once, I’m going to address the author’s message. Mostly because she doesn’t leave me much of a choice. The world, the characters, and especially the plot were just props and tools for Lockhart to spread her feministic message to teen girls. I have nothing against feminism, being an equalist myself, but I also think there are better ways of conveying girl power than this mess of a book. Tamora Pierce’s character Kel, for example, or even John Flanagan’s cast of strong girls in the forms of Evelyn, Alys, Jenny, and even Pauline as a grown-up example. They don’t have to needlessly argue with the male cast, or fall into a near endless list of tropes with female characters that do more harm than good. They are simply relatable, nearly real characters that act true to their natures, and through succeeding in their trials, prove a feministic point.

I think this book’s biggest flaw is it set out wanting to convey a specific message, rather than think about what kind of person the main character had to be, putting any real work into the other characters, creating a strong story question, and then working the message in to the story in such a way it worked with all the elements without completely taking over. Lockhart just threw words on a page and called it good. Not going to cut it, in my opinion. Not going to cut it at all.

Occasionally, I stray from my land of make-believe and fantasy for a taste of so-called “reality.” I’ve found a couple of gems over the years, but then I find or get assigned duds like this one. I then proceed to jump back into mythological waters at the nearest opportunity. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book about about Jesus apparently having a wife and the lost sacred feminine to finish reading.