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

Saturday, April 27, 2013 10:00 AM
Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Published: March 25, 2008
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 345
Source: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“She will not be simple and sweet.
She will not be what people tell her she should be.”
― E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Why Frankie Landau-Banks is a kickass heroine:

-She takes everyone by surprise with her genius machinations
-Frankie is super sneaky
-She never takes no for an answer
-Her schemes are trying to communicate a deeper message
-She is all about female empowerment
-She's a vegetarian

As the title suggests, Frankie Landau-Banks is the star of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and boy, did she shine! I adored Frankie. Her epic name, her sharp tongue, her endless wit! Everyone underestimates her! Her boyfriend, her friends, and even her family see her as just this sweet, innocent girl, their little "Bunny Rabbit" whose job is just to sit there and look pretty. But then Frankie completely defies all of their stereotypical, sexist expectations and shows them what she really has to offer. Because Frankie is far from just a pretty face!

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks started off slow. The pace didn't pick up until about 200 pages in, and it took awhile before the story really grabbed my attention. During Frankie's first year of boarding school, she escaped the notice of Matthew Livingston, her huge crush, and all of his friends. She fit more into the geeky crowd, and she hadn't grown into her body yet. But that all changes in her second year. Frankie has matured in certain places, and suddenly, Matthew, Alpha, and their friends are interested in hanging out with Frankie. Matthew even wants to be more than friends with her. At first, she is excited and shocked by the newfound interest Matthew is showing, and she tries to play it cool and like she hasn't been completely besotted with him the whole last year. But then, she notices how Matthew frequently ditches her for Alpha and this secret society. And how her opinion doesn't seem to matter as much as her looks. She finds the all-male secret society's exclusionary nature frustrating, and she decides to take matters into her own hands. That's when the pace really picks up, and I was nearly screaming, "YOU GO GIRL!"

Frankie Landau-Banks. You have guts and I respect you immensely. I would say balls, but I find the phrase "grow a pair" to be a step backwards for the feminist movement. By saying this phrase, I feel like you're reinforcing the notion that men are stronger and more courageous than women.
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Stemming off of that, there is one minor issue I had with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Frankie is so obsessed with infiltrating this secret society that I think she sometimes loses sight of the bigger picture. She firmly attests her beliefs of women empowerment and female inclusion, but sometimes, her manipulations seem to devolve into a cry for attention. I think this quote sums it up perfectly:

“Frankie appreciated both the accolades and the rejections equally, because both meant she'd had an impact. She wasn't a person who needed to be liked so much as she was a person who liked to be notorious.”

Exactly! Sometimes, it felt like this power struggle between the sexes was caused by Frankie's need for attention. More than anything, I think Frankie wanted to prove everyone wrong. Nobody believed in her, nobody thought she could pull off such wonderful schemes. Did I judge her for this? No. While Frankie is a criminal mastermind, she is still a teenager. And that means that yes, she is going to have insecurities and vulnerable moments. She does act childish at times, but she is still discovering herself and learning what she believes in. There were so many pressures weighing her down as well. Her father, her mother, her boyfriend...they all wanted her to be the Frankie they thought she was. Her boyfriend was completely oblivious to Frankie's true character. He chose not to see who Frankie really was, and I could not stand him at all. Alpha was more perceptive than Matthew, but even he clung to stereotypes.

More than anything, I feel like The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks speaks to the ongoing struggle for women to find their place in society. I mean, it even made it on the 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader list! Yes, Frankie is only a teenager and hardly out in the real world, but already she feels the sting of sexism's bite. By the end, Frankie realizes that she'd rather be alone than with someone who doesn't truly know her. I can understand that because sometimes it is lonelier being with someone who doesn't really get you than it is being alone. But Frankie feeds on power. It's not that she wants to discard a patriarchal society, but that she wants to be on top in that society. And if Frankie was a real person, she would have a long, hard road of it and would have to overcome many obstacles on our way up. I don't envy her that.

Despite the slow start and Frankie's overzealous attempts to be "one of the guys," I found The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks to be, overall, a clever, insightful look into the brilliant mind of a usurper bent on changing the status quo. I admire and respect Frankie, and I only wish she was a real person so I could give her a hug and be her friend.


  1. Sounds funn. She sounds like a cool character.

    1. She really is! She's definitely one of my favorite heroines ever!

  2. YES! Exactly! I felt so empowered after this one. It took me awhile to adjust to, but once I did, I just LOVED it. I feel like feminism or even complete equality for women is STILL not reached, especially with so many rape cases rampant, but I'm glad that books like this still exist to teach girls to embrace who they are. I loved the depth behind this and the subtleties of so many of the gestures in this book. Just...brilliant!

    1. I agree entirely, Keertana! I feel like everyone believes we have reached a sexist-free society, but I think we have so far to go! and this book really speaks to that and shows some barriers to women's advancement. But Frankie is not so easily deterred! She is not one to give up, and I just loved her! It really was brillant. :D

  3. Woo! I am always stoked when I see great reviews of this book and I really enjoyed yours! Frankie is one of the best characters I've read about :)

    1. I know! Love her! And this book deserves as much praise as it can get. Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed my review! :D

  4. I've heard great things about this one before, but never before have a read an in depth review, so yours was pretty enlightening. I can see why people love this one so much! Frankie sounds amazing!! And empowering.

    1. That's great to hear, Aylee! She really is an awe-inspiring protagonist and I'm sure you'd love her if you read this book. I was all fired up and thinking, "Yay for girl power!" after this book. :P

  5. I absolutely adore this book. I re-read it all the time. Frankie is seriously the girl I wish I had been in high school. One on my favorite aspects of the book is the way the reader can see how what she is learning in school is changing the way she thinks (the panopticon, for example). I think this book should be required reading. I love it. Great review!

    1. Same here! If I had been more like Frankie in high school, I would have ruled that school! I also loved the concept of the panopticon and how it worked with the story. It was definitely a worthwhile read. Thanks, Natalie!

  6. I'm glad to hear that you liked this book a lot - it makes me feel better about intending to devote my time to reading this later on. I've heard great things about E. Lockhart in general and am most interested in this book of hers. I really like the idea of female empowerment that it seems to promote, however I found your slight criticism to be very interesting. Female empowerment vs almost a sort of personal empowerment/gratification. I'll definitely have to read it keeping that interpretation in mind!

    1. Yeah, I'm curious to see if you agree. If not, I'm sure we'll have one of our debates as usual. And even if we do agree, we can still discuss as always. I can't wait to see what you think! I also want to read her Ruby Oliver books, and I know you do as well. They look amazing!

  7. I think that Frankie Landau-Banks is totally a me sort of book and basically I am kind of kicking myself for not having read it yet, because I love things like boarding schools and feminism and pranks.

    1. If you like all of those things, you definitely need to read this book ASAP. It's so you and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. :D


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