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First Book Blogger Book Club: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

20 Apr

Once again, I’m happy to participate in First Book’s Blogger Book Club. In fact I’m even happier to participate in this month’s book club, because I not only got to pick this month’s book but I actually loved it. Unlike last time with Nick Hornby’s Slam. The intention of First Book’s Blogger Book Club is to spotlight some of the YA books that are available in their marketplace which offers books at steep discounts to educational and low-income sources. It’s a fantastic organization and I’m happy to be associated with them.

For this month’s book club, I got to pick the book because of how much I hated Slam. It’s a nice perk :). I chose E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks because I wanted to balance the boy-ness of Slam with a great female character. I’m terrible at summaries, but the one from Goodreads is great:

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.

Basically Frankie goes to a generic New England prep school, wherein she returns from summer vacation completely transformed – where she was a geek, she’s now (a bit predictably) a knock out. As a knock out, she quickly shows up on the radar of the boy she’s had a massive crush on and quickly becomes nothing more than arm candy. As much as I hesitated not to groan about this turn of events and to avoid wanting to shake Frankie for this bimbo-y behavior, I couldn’t help but adore her as a character. She’s complex and funny and she’s got a great sense of language – convenient since the book is written like a journal or letter. There are multiple old school influences here, some obvious, some not so obvious, but I really loved Frankie’s ability to subvert the boy’s club of which her super-popular boyfriend is the president. She was just so much damn smarter than the boys, which I loved. Her ideas had symbolic purpose and her pranks were thought out and meaningful. She made a statement, which was just accentuated by the fact that she did it all secretly, even keeping her actions secret from the boys she had doing her dirty work.

Frankie is the fantasy of what a lot of people, not just girls in a male-centric environment, wish they had the balls to do. She pushes the limits of acceptability and doesn’t just let herself get taken over. I can say this now, because I’ve finished the book. Finishing the book made a huge difference in how I perceived the book. I really struggled throughout the book to see Frankie as a positive female teenage character because ***SPOILER ALERT*** it’s not until the final pages of the book that she actually becomes fully independent. I was frustrated through out that it seemed she was pulling these outlandish stunts just to get her boyfriend’s attention or praise. She wanted to be taken seriously by him, to be appreciated as an equal, instead of being his “property.” Her efforts seem to be entirely about him, and the fact that he DOESN’T treat her any differently and it doesn’t mean a wake-up call for her until the very end (and I do mean the very end) drove me nuts! I wanted her to ditch him multiple times, to realize that she was smarter, more creative and more incisive than he would ever be. She was being dragged down by him, and I was praying the the book wouldn’t end with her still swooning after him, with him still unaware of the fact that she was behind the awesome pranks that he himself carried out. Thank GOD Lockhart didn’t let her become like every other mewling girl who follows a cute boy, no questions asked.

Frankie is better than that.

Have you read Frankie? What did you think? Was she ballsy or just a troublemaker?

First Book Bloggers Book Club Review: SLAM

2 Mar

This review is part of the First Book Bloggers Book Club. Check out other reviews from other bloggers at the First Book Blog here.

I am not a stranger to Nick Hornby. I’ve always had a soft spot for his awkward adult male narrators and his authentic British dialect. I was hoping that this affinity I’ve got for these aspects of Hornby’s work would transmit in his only YA novel, SLAM. A summary from the First Book marketplace:

Just when everything is coming together for Sam, his girlfriend Alicia drops a bombshell. Make that ex-girlfriend–because by the time she tells him she’s pregnant, they’ve already called it quits. Sam does not want to be a teenage dad. His mom had him at sixteen and has made it very clear how having a baby so young interrupted her life. There’s only one person Sam can turn to–his hero, skating legend Tony Hawk. Sam believes the answers to life’s hurdles can be found in Hawk’s autobiography. But even Tony Hawk isn’t offering answers this time–or is he? Inexplicably, Sam finds himself whizzed into the future, for a quick glimpse of what will be… or what could be. In this wonderfully witty, poignant story about a teenage boy unexpectedly thrust into fatherhood, it’s up to Sam to make the right decisions so the bad things that could happen, well, don’t.

Sam is a good kid. That much is clear from the very beginning. He loves his mom, he worries about getting in trouble and he’s looking for any kind of guidance he can get his hands on.  And he really likes Alicia. But in the summary up there, the part where it says, “Inexplicably, Sam finds himself whizzed into the future, for a quick glimpse of what will be… or what could be.” That was where the wheels came off the tracks for me. I was genuinely rooting for Sam until that point (I wasn’t that fond of Alicia because all we really get is Sam’s point of view), and I was trying to be as understanding as possible about the poor decisions he made and the penchant he had for running away. He’s a kid, after all.  But the jump into the future? Made zero narrative sense to me. From a purely technical standpoint, I was able to put aside the fact that Sam’s narrative voice annoyed the hell out of me (most teenage boys annoy me anyway – so that was accurate). I was able to suspend a bit more disbelief that he talked to his Tony Hawk poster – again, teenage boys are a mystery to me. But I couldn’t get past the point of jumping into the future – and it happens in such a way that it can’t be logically explained away as a dream.

I kept reading for a few dozen pages past that point, but I quickly found that I wasn’t picking it up, that I was dreading trying to read a chapter or two, especially since this is the first episode in the First Book Bloggers Book Club. I don’t know if the book just wasn’t for me, or if it would be much more appealing to a male audience – it is SUCH a boy book. But I can say it wasn’t for me. This will be my first (and hopefully last) “Did Not Finish” read of the year.