Cover of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks with a girl and boy sitting on a bench shown from the waist down

About the Book

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Published: 2008
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Stock (Photo) Crash
BFF Charm: Y to the Mothercussing ES
Talky Talk: Straight-Up Classy With a Twist of Wodehouse
Bonus Factors: Boarding School, Pranks, Feminism
Relationship Status: Wind Beneath My Wings

Cover Story: Stock (Photo) Crash

So, in migrating this post to our new site in 2021, I had to use the updated cover of the book, and ummm WHA HAPPENED? The original artwork, designed to look like an envelope with a wax Basset seal, was refined yet playful, whereas this is just a stock photo of two headless kids on a bench. And do NOT try to tell me that the girl clutching the red purse is supposed to be Frankie because WHERE IS THE PERSONALITY? The only saving grace here are the two award stickers, which almost make up for this heinous mediocrity.

The Deal

Frankie Landau-Banks is beginning to figure out a few very important things about the world. First of all, one summer’s worth of new curves can do wonders for a girl’s social life. Second, boys love a good damsel in distress. And third, being a damsel in distress is totally lame.

When Frankie returns to Alabaster Prep for her sophomore year, she looks like a different person (read: my humps!), and she soon begins to feel like a different person. Sure, she’s just snagged her mega crush, Mathew Livingston, and consequently joined his rowdy, totally charming group of friends, but why does she only fit in as “the girlfriend” and never as “Frankie, the awesome and independent thinker”? And when will her family quit calling her “Bunny Rabbit” and acting like she needs constant care and protection? As the tension deepens between Frankie’s old and new identity, she stumbles across a boys-only secret society known as the Loyal Order of the Basset Hound, yet another reminder of her status as “just a girl.” (Y’all, I’m tempted to write this entire review with song lyrics but i will try to refrain. Although I may make a Frankie mixtape and post it later cos THE GIRL INSPIRES ME). Torn between wanting to be accepted by the Bassets and needing to prove her intellectual superiority, Frankie launches her own highly strategic (and crazy awesome!) campaign to prove her worth. But as the stakes grow higher, she must decide for herself what she hopes to gain and, more importantly, what she’s willing to lose.

BFF Charm: Platinum

BFF platinum charm

I don’t want to give Frankie Banks a BFF charm. I want to give her A FREAKING MEDAL BECAUSE SHE IS MY HERO. Sure, there’s a lot of strong YA girl characters out there (yay!), but as far as I’m concerned, Frankie rules over all, and by that I mean, she is soooo gonna be the first female president of the United States. She’s crafty, she’s brilliant, but above all, she’s Just Like The Rest Of US (voters love that shizz), and I think that’s exactly why she’s my idol. For example, Frankie struggles with wanting her boyfriend to desire her while also wanting him to recognize her as a strong, independent person. You may think, “But of course, she can have both!” but you would be forgetting that A) we’re talking about high school boys B) have y’all seen a rom com lately? Hello, Bride Wars was only released a year ago, and it is a movie about TWO GIRLS COMPETING OVER THEIR WEDDINGS. COME ON. Obvs there’s still a lot of effed up gender roles in our society, and Frankie faces them dead on while still obsessing over whether or not the humidity is going to make her hair frizz. I love her because she’s vulnerable, but she doesn’t let her weaknesses stand in the way of growing a huge pair of BETTE DAVIS EYES. (Oh yeah, that’s going on the mixtape.)

Plus, anyone to whom this quote applies will forever have my undying admiration:

She wasn’t a person who needed to be liked so much as she was a person who liked to be notorious.

(No-no-NOTORIOUS!) GAH I wish I could write that in my “about me” box on Facebook and have it be true.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Frankie’s burgeoning romance with Matthew is definitely adorable, complete with illicit parties on the golf course (oh, you crazy rich kids!) and some pretty hot kissing action. But for me, the real chemistry lies between Frankie and Alpha, Matthew’s best friend and leader of the Bassets. Alpha’s like a less dangerous version of Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, meaning he’s achieved legendary badass status through a combination of pure rumor and his charmingly arrogant personality. Part good old boy, part Animal House, Alpha bears his nickname for a reason, and when Frankie sets out to challenge him, the sparkage is both inevitable and awesome. While I’m all about the swoonage, I have to commend Lockhart for limiting Alpha and Frankie to just a few tingling moments, because as prudish as it sounds, nothing whets desire like restraint.

Talky Talk: Straight-Up Classy With a Twist of Wodehouse

I’m a big fan of E. Lockhart’s other books (particularly the Ruby Oliver series), but one of the things that makes Frankie stand out as her best work (in my opinion) is the old-fashioned style of the writing. While the dialogue is totally believable and teenagery, the third person narration has a distinctly literary, dignified feel to it. Part of this is due to Frankie’s discovery of P.G. Wodehouse’s Code of the Woosters, which leads to her totally adorable fascination with neglected positives, like gruntled and maculate. Her vocabulary soon expands to what she refers to as “imaginary neglected positives” or INPs like petous, ept and turbed, and it’s a delightful substitute for what most smart kids do these days, i.e. maxing out on SAT words. Overall, the style of this novel feels like a stroll through an elegant estate on a crisp autumn day– it’s absolutely enchanting.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

Alabaster Academy is everything a boarding school should be. It’s prestigious, plush, and packed with rich kids in search of mischief. Plus its archaic rules are just begging to be broken.

Bonus Factor: Pranks

LORD I love a good prank. In fact, I graduated from college convinced that the purpose of higher education is to learn how to do awesome things without getting caught. (It appears a lot of CEOs learned the same thing– HEYO!) Lucky for Frankie, she discovers the value of a good prank a lot earlier than I did, thanks to her Cities, Art & Protest class, which was not, btw, available at Cypress Creek High School. Public education FAIL.

Bonus Factor: Feminism

Raised fists in different skin tones wearing nail polish

Frankie is a totally authentic teenage feminist, and as I’ve mentioned a thousand times already in this review, I love her for it. Her struggle between wanting to be liked and wanting to be respected is something that resonates with anyone who’s ever been a 15-year-old girl, and there were so many passages that made me, a 31-year-old I-like-to-think-enlightened woman, nod my head and say, “I feel you!” for example:

… Frankie remembered how Matthew had called her a “pretty package,” how he’d called her mind little, how he’d told her not to change– as if he had some power over her. A tiny part of her wanted to go over to him and shout, “I can feel like a hag some days if I want! And I can tell everybody how insecure I am if I want! Or I can be pretty and pretend to think I’m a hag out of fake modesty– I can do that if I want, too. Because you, Livingston, are not the boss of me and what kind of girl I become.” But most of her simply felt happy that he had put his arm around her and told her he thought she was pretty.

Um, yeah, I think we’ve all been down that v. v. twisted road before. Feminism is awesome, but it’s also hella confusing.

Relationship Status: Wind Beneath My Wings

DID YOU EVER KNOW THAT YOU’RE MY HEROOOOO? YOU’RE EVERYTHING I WISH IIIII COULD BEEEEE!!!!! Seriously, I can’t wait for the day Frankie Banks is old enough to come to a karaoke bar with me so I can buy her a shot of whiskey and then serenade her with some highly emotional Bette Midler. She really is an inspiration, and that’s why I am compelled to share her story with as many people as possible. Hopefully by the end of the night, we’ll be drunkenly dishing about all of the hijinks we’ve masterminded and the inferior boys we’ve dated, not to mention singing along to some Joan Jett. and maybe, if I’m really lucky, Frankie will join me for a Spice Girls duet. ZIGGA ZIG AHH!

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book with my own damn money. I received neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.