The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

This is one of those YA books that I have no difficulty recommending to adults.  It’s smart and fun.  To her family, Frankie is Bunny Rabbit, the harmless baby sister.  To her classmates she was invisible, until a summer growth spurt made her more attractive.  But Frankie soon learns that being pretty may have gotten her noticed, but there are new ways in which she feels overlooked and underestimated.  Unlike most teens, Frankie is determined to do something about it. When she discovers her father’s secret society is still active on her prep school campus (and still all male), she finds herself hatching a plan, and there’s no going back.

As I said, this book is smart, and it expects as much from its readers. There is a lot of difficult vocabulary: antiquated, disparaging, cachet, nepotism, dissipated, pejorative, spurious.  Frankie also loves to play with words, and make new ones, for example – disgruntled means angry or dissatisfied, but Frankie uses gruntled to mean happy or content.  There’s a section of the book that explains Frankie’s construction, but the people who will enjoy this the most, are the kind who get what she’s doing on their own.

One additional note:  Frankie is Jewish.  It’s not a huge part of the book, but it’s relevant in that it adds another layer to her feelings of being different from many at her school.  I know some girls will love having a main character who shares their background.

Great for: Your little feminist.  Frankie is constantly thinking about what she is left out of because she is a girl.  It’s not done in an obnoxious way; it’s actually the kind of thing that has you nodding along, thinking “I never thought of that, but it’s so true!”

This is also great for readers who’ve spent time at a private school, boarding school or certain colleges – I was constantly reminded of my small Northeastern liberal arts school.  You don’t have to be a prep school alum to get it, but so many things will feel familiar if you’ve had experience in a similar setting (duh).

Sex, Nudity, Dating – There are several references to Frankie’s curvaceous figure.  A boy calls his mother “the menstrual unit.”  There is some kissing, “making out,” holding hands and once or twice clothed bodies are pressed up against each other.  Some boys skinny dip.  Our main character is not sexually active.  Her sister reminds her to use protection and she protests that she is not having sex, citing both her age and the short length of her relationship.  She is curious about if others are having sex and sometimes speculates about it, and occasionally worries that her boyfriend might be disappointed that they are not doing more.
Profanity – “ass,” “piss off,” “balls,”  “sucks,” and “F-U” is used twice, although it is used exactly as I typed it, the words are never written out.
Death, Violence and Gore – None
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – There is definitely underage drinking and smoking, but our main character engages in neither.  Alcohol is mentioned as being present at parties and a few characters mention being drunk.  A former child actor says she had to work with “coke addicts” and members of a secret society smoked marijuana in the seventies.
Frightening or Intense Things – None

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One Response to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

  1. stellacarolyn says:

    I love, love, love this book. And I think you’re right about the smart factor- it took me until it was explained to really get what she was doing with the words but once I got it, it made me smile. It’s the part of the book I remember most clearly. I kind of want to start doing it myself in my real life.

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