Reading Roundup

What’s on my nightstand? The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart.

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.

That’s from the flap copy, and I disagree with the “supremely goofy” assessment of Matthew, but otherwise think it’s a good description of where Frankie’s story starts. The change in her body changes the way others see her or, perhaps, makes others finally see her, particularly boys. But is her body all they see?

Frankie likes the change in her body; she’s comfortable in it in as much as she notices it. But parts of Frankie haven’t changed, and she sometimes finds it difficult to reconcile the old with the new. Would the delicious and well-connected Matthew Livingston have singled her out were she still merely the quick-witted debater? Unlikely, let’s be honest. But she’s still that person. The hot bod didn’t replace or diminish the brains.

Frankie embraces the role of Matthew’s girlfriend and tolerates hanging out with other hot-senior-guy girlfriends but, ever the geek, never gets close to them. She might be able to get close to Matthew and his smart-ish friends if they would let her, but they won’t. That closeness is reserved for members of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male not-so-secret society, dedicated to…well, that’s hard to say, really. Nowadays, the Hounds seemed dedicated mostly to lame meaningless pranks, wasting the power they could wield to affect meaningful social change, at least at Alabaster Academy.

Frustrated at being shut out because she’s a girl, and wanting to be closer to Matthew, Frankie spies on the Basset Hounds and learns their secrets. Being whip-smart and fiercely determined, she soon learns more about the Order than current members know. She uses this knowledge to infiltrate the secret society and take it over.

Really. The fact is, she’s good at it. Better than the boys. She uses the Order not only to entertain and impress Alabaster students, but also to make clever social statements and improve campus conditions. While this is great satisfying stuff, one thing still eludes Frankie: she cannot get Matthew to see and respect her brilliance, to join her in these exciting escapades–or let her join him. He continues to shut her out of his secret Basset Hound life and, worse, places that secret life ahead of his relationship with her.

Then something goes wrong. Life and books are that way. A clever prank is deemed “vandalism” by the Alabaster administration, and a relatively innocent member of the Loyal Order is about to take the fall. Frankie is so good at what she does, no one, not even Matthew, has a clue she’s the real mastermind.

In addition to being smart, Frankie is a good person. She does the right thing, but it costs her.

I loved this book!

It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s real. Frankie is a great MC, hot and capable but still vulnerable and imperfect, easy to identify with.

One detail I especially liked was Frankie’s enjoyment of P.G. Wodehouse stories and her subsequent fascination with “inpeas”–Imaginary Neglected Positives–like “gruntled” which would be the opposite of “disgruntled” if it were, in fact, a word, as perhaps it should be.

There’s also some interesting information about secret societies.

And here’s a seemingly insignificant Line I Love.

Frankie is home for Thanksgiving, feeling frustrated because everyone, but especially Matthew, seems to underestimate her. She’s talking to her mother.

“You always underestimate me.”

Ruth shook her head. “I think the world of you. Now, can you carry the potatoes out to the table? The bowl is very heavy.”

I laughed out loud when I read that! I think that’s great writing.

The readergirlz are discussing this book all month. If I’m not here, that’s where I’ll be. E.’s there, too, of course, if you want to e-meet her.

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