Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Frankie has everything: brains, looks, and popularity at her elite New England boarding school. The only thing she doesn't have is entry into the old boy's secret society. She feels like the people around her (including her boyfriend, one of the co-leaders of the society) underestimate her because she's a girl. Eventually, she works out a plan to show them they shouldn't count her out.

Now this is what I'm talking about! It's a teen book and there's some boyfriend-girlfriend things in it, but there's a real plot and actual characters here. Frankie is conflicted between wanting to be the docile girlfriend and daugher people expect her to be or wanting to be noticed. In fact, that's the real problem, and this book shows it quite clearly: society expects different things from females than from males, and some people have learned to use it to their advantage. The boys in the secret society have behaviors that give them the social upper-hand. (For instance, by pretending not to remember Frankie from last year, they show that they're more important than she is, and make her feel small.) I liked this social commentary and how it was made so much that I marked a quote about how boys got invited into the secret society:
Family wealth and social class didn't count on the surface. What those factors did was to lend the boys who had them an almost intangible sense of security regarding their places in the world, which often (though not always) led to social dominance, which led to induction in the Loyal Order.
In this book, problem isn't the exclusivity of the club, nor the social dominance conferred by membership, but that it's male-only. Frankie's father was a member during his time at the school, and she's smart and popular enough that if she were a male, she'd have no trouble getting in. I'm glad the book took on this one part of the problem with the old boys' club because it does sexism well, and I think if it spread out to its effect on other groups (what happens to the geeks or the kids whose parents couldn't afford private school?) it would have been less effective. But I hope that any reader would be able to extrapolate.

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