The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

I had fun reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It was one of those books that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, not wanting to stop until I’m done reading. And to think that this was not entirely a mystery story. Although I was not completely wowed at the end, I kept thinking over some things in the book after I turned the last page – details of which I will share in a little while.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is the story of Frances “Frankie” Landau-Banks (of course) who is the “Bunny Rabbit” of everyone in the family. That is, until after she enrolled in Alabaster Preparatory Academy. Over the summer after her freshman year, Frankie grows to be an attractive young lady and has become more assertive than she usually is. During her sophomore year, she catches the interest of Matthew Livingston. Dating a gorgeous senior, Frankie discovers her own abilities and  strengths. And this is when the pranks start.

One thing that really caught my attention with this book was the narration. It was as if I was listening to someone else tell the story of Frankie. Many times through the book I was thinking how apt this book would if listened to than being read. The narrator’s voice was very engaging and since the tone was matter-of-fact, it was as if someone else is reading the story to me inside my head.

Frankie herself was a very interesting character. I especially loved her penchant for  words, particularly the neglected positive theories that she had with grammar. These were actually the things that struck me most such that I kept thinking of other words that have neglected positives in them. Very, very interesting. Consider this:

“I am not asking that you indulge my behavior; merely that you do not dulge it without considering its context.” (p. 3)

What? Dulge? I was totally mayed. And gruntled. 😀

That, and the interesting concept of the panopticon which I had not encountered until I read the book. Aside from being just your typical, feel-good young-adult story, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks also explores and dissects social conventions and norms, and is an interesting discourse on gender equality and feminism.

And then of course there’s the (small) element of mystery that added to the book’s flavor, although, in hindsight, there was really no mystery as the identity of the person who pulled the pranks in Alabaster was already made known during the course of the story. But still, it was fun reading about how the mystery was unravelled, and how each of the characters reacted afterwards.

I liked how the story ended as well. It was indeed a story of empowerment – girl power to be precise, but I think of it more as a story of self-discovery and identity, and the need for acceptance, regardless of gender. Frankie, in hindsight, was just a normal teenage girl like any other – only that she was brave enough to express what she wanted and to exert efforts to bring her desires into fruition. The pranks were fun to read, though personally, I did not agree with them. They sounded juvenile, if you come to think of it, but then again which pranks aren’t? (This may be debatable because I still enjoy pulling pranks so would that mean I am juvenile? Ah, whatever. :P)

What held me back in giving this a much higher rating was because of the  misgivings I had regarding the kind of assertiveness and dominance that the story promotes. Call me antiquated but I am not a die-hard advocate of equality between sexes. Maybe equality in opportunities and rights, yes, I can concede to that, but equality in everything? There are things that only a man can and is capable of doing, in the same way that there are things that only a woman is endowed of the capacity to perform. The differences between sexes are actually what makes living harmonious and orderly. The differences should be viewed as interdependence and co-existence and not a quest as to who should dominate and who should submit.

“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors that to shut them on people.” (p. 342)

Ah, Frankie. You must know, there are times that it’s better to follow than to lead. And there are also times that it’s better to stay silent than to speak up. I hope you get to learn how to keep the balance.

3/5 stars.

My copy: paperback a Christmas gift from Cary

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