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

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

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Quality of Prose: 4.5/5

Quality of Story: 4.5/5

Quality of Characters: 4.5/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 4.5/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 2 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

Frankie Landau-Banks, infiltrates a boy’s-only-secret-society at her uppity New England boarding school and attempts to dismantle the “Old Boys’ Club” atmosphere of her school and the patriarchy itself.

My Favorite Quotes

“Matthew had called her harmless. Harmless. And being with him made Frankie feel squashed into a box–a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); a box for young and pretty girls who were not as bright or powerful as their boyfriends. A box for people who were not forces to be reckoned with. Frankie wanted to be a force.”

“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 than to shut them on people. She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be what people tell her to be.”

“In some ways, we can see Frankie Landau-Banks as a neglected positive. A buried word. A word inside another word that’s getting all the attention. A mind inside a body that’s getting all the attention. Frankie’s mind is a word overlooked, but when uncovered–through invention, imagination, or recollection–it wields a power that is comical, surprising, and memorable.”

disrep history

What I Loved About It

This book is the ultimate teen-girl (and all women everywhere, really) feminist manifesto. E. Lockhart is seriously one of THE most talented YA authors out there. Her books are always witty and sharp (in a funny way, like in The Boyfriend List or The Disreputable History, or in a disturbing way, like in We Were Liars or Genuine Fraud). They always feature amazingly complex, strong, and still “girly” and feminine main characters who the audience often can’t help but to respect but also fear (though the question Lockhart repeatedly asks through these characters is: do we fear these girls because they don’t follow the social rules we often expect girls to follow? And: if a male character did or said the same things would we be as disturbed by them?).

It’s amazing that Lockhart can address these deeper ideas and create these complex and amazing characters (and write a freaking feminist manifesto) while still building a world and a story that is funny and interesting, filled with boarding school hi jinx and high school pranks and teenage romance, a world and story that teenaged readers would be so unbelievably engaged in.

One of my most favorite qualities of this book is the matter-of-fact storytelling nature of the prose. In the novel, Frankie finds the book written by members of her school’s secret boys-only society titled, The Disreputable History of the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds detailing all of the society’s various pranks, hi jinx, and activities. The novel itself is written in such a way as to suggest that it is Frankie’s own Disreputable History book, with prose that speaks directly to the reader and uses pronouns like “I,” with entire chapters that include hilarious grammar lessons (about neglected positives, which I now find to be incredibly funny) and excerpts from Frankie’s school essays and pieces of evidence that link her to her many crimes. It’s such a unique storytelling style that isn’t used in YA lit enough and that would certainly interest teen readers.

I seriously can not stress enough how amazing this book is. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is the perfect blend of the fun of her Ruby Oliver novels and the depth and provocative nature of her more “serious” novels, We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud. This is pretty evident in that the novel has, deservingly, won a bajillion awards.  It’s the kind of book that makes me desperately wish I had the depth of mind and writing abilities to write, a book that, while interesting and fun and witty, makes a reader think and question and affect social change.

What My Students Could Learn From It

There are, sadly, not enough YA books that appeal to students’ more shallow interests (romance and humor and rebellion) and that also make them think deeply about social issues. But all of E. Lockhart’s books do. She is such a literary genius. Frankie Landau-Banks is a protagonist my students need to read about–a teen who cares about social issues and wants to affect social change, who is a free thinker and a leader, who is intelligent and funny and sharp, but also who, unlike the characters in a lot of John Green books, is an authentic and realistic teenager.

Reading about Frankie’s efforts to escape the panopticon, to force her way into a social group she has been barred entry from, and her frustration at the lack of care her classmates have for these things would provoke my students to really think about their own social lives and the social rules they are following simply because they think they have to, because they think they are being watched.

Most teenagers are followers. It’s simply the phase of everyone’s life where they are so desperate to belong, to fit in, and to continue the social status quo. But reading this book could maybe give students the courage to lead instead of follow and to not cower in the face of the high school social strata.

The novel would get students thinking about society and socialization in general but would also be a great first foray into feminism without being preachy or overt or whine-y.

I seriously cannot stop raving about this book. So go buy it and read it and share it with your students! You won’t be disappointed!

 

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Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Overall Rating: 3.75/5

Quality of Prose: 3.5/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 3.5/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 3 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

When found by a detective on a resort in Mexico, Jule’s (possible spy/possible super hero/possible murderer) story unfolds in reverse chronological order and her many secrets are revealed.

My Favorite Quotes

“To be a physically powerful woman–it was something. You could go anywhere, do anything, if you were difficult to hurt.”

“‘Shut up, little girl, you’ve said enough.’ ‘Stop, little girl, don’t hit, use your words’–and shut up at the same time. They squash you. They want you to be small and silent. Good was just another word for don’t fight back.”

“‘The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.’ –Charles Do Bos”

What I Loved About It

If you read my review of Lockhart’s other mystery/suspense/thriller We Were Liars, you’d know I was really really impressed by Lockhart’s prose and her GIGANTIC twists in that novel. Because of that, I was really really looking forward to reading Lockhart’s newest novel. I was ready for another twist, and I must say this book definitely delivered. The twist in this one is crazy and, while not completely unexpected, definitely blew me away.

Lockhart’s prose in this novel isn’t quite as impressive as that in We Were Liars, but it’s still really good and she has a really really unique talent in creating a protagonist who is, for all intents and purposes, (SPOILER ALERT) an evil, identity-less murderer and yet who the audience really sympathizes with.

The fact that the story is told in reverse chronological order is another testament to E. Lockhart’s literary genius and really makes the story a lot more suspenseful and intriguing. I can’t even imagine how hard it was to write a novel like that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: E. Lockhart. Is. The. Bomb.

I really did enjoy reading this book. However, I found myself being fairly confused when the book ended (which, to be fair, was probably Lockhart’s intent). The book ends rather abruptly and left me questioning A LOT of what happened throughout the book. To be fair, I could definitely see the structure and narrative of this novel being too confusing for many of my lower level readers and just complex enough for my more advanced readers.

What My Students Could Learn From It

The unique structure of the book would be great for teaching text structure and how a text’s structure affects the narrative itself. It’d also be a great book for teaching about the unreliability of narrators. Jule, the protagonist (IF THAT’S EVEN HER REAL NAME), is, after all, not the most trustworthy source for information and even by the end of the book, many of the mysterious details of her life and character are still not revealed or clarified.

The book also has a lot to say about gender roles and expectations , as well as identity, and could foster a really interesting conversation amongst students about those things.

And of course the violent, murder-y bits of the story would provide plenty of intrigue for the kids. They eat that stuff up.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Quality of Prose: 4/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 3/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 2/5

How Long It Took Me To Finish: 2 days

 

A 1 Sentence Summary

Cadence Sinclair, of the rich and famous Sinclair family, struggles to remember what happened during the summer of her 15th year, when she suffered a traumatic brain injury on her family’s private island.

 

My Favorite Quotes

“They know that tragedy is not glamorous. They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors are not attributable to one single person. Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing.”

“Everything doesn’t seem like anything when you love someone. Especially when you’re young.”

 

we were liars

What I Loved About It

THE TWIST. OH MY GOODNESS THAT TWIST THOUGH.

It’s the kind of twist I’ve only seen before in movies, and E. Lockhart pulls it off magnificently in this novel.

You’ll get to a point where you think you’ve gotten to the twist but oh ho ho THERE IS ANOTHER ONE COMING AND IT’S HUGE AND CRAZY. And I’m not going to spoil it for you because the twist is honestly what makes this book great and there’s no point if you know what it is.

Anyways, the twist (as I’m sure you can probably guess by now) blew my mind. Previous to the twist, I was interested in this book and what would happen next, but to be honest, I wasn’t enthralled by it. The twist made all the difference.

I found We Were Liars shockingly relatable. My family may not be rich enough to own a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, but I understand that feeling you get as a young person where you feel like your family is so narrow-minded and on the verge of falling apart and you are briefly willing to do whatever it takes to teach them the error of their ways and to keep the family from splintering. I think my students will relate to this as well.

I did love E. Lockhart’s prose in this one. It’s different from her biting and hilarious wit in The Boyfriend List (which I read and loved in high school), though definitely still clever, unique, and impactful. Here’s an example of it when the narrator is describing how she felt when her dad left her and her mother suddenly and without warning: “My father put a last suitcase into the backseat of the Mercedes…and started the engine. Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound, then from my eyes, my ears, my mouth.”

What My Students Could Learn From It

We Were Liars is a great commentary on wealth, privilege, and prejudice in America.

It also teaches an interesting lesson on the stupid decisions teenagers make that end up with far-reaching, tragic consequences. I think MANY of my students could certainly use a lesson on that.