Though not, in hindsight, so startling as the misdeeds she would perpetrate when she returned to boarding school as a sophomore, what happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer after her freshman year was a shock.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau–Banks is, of course, about Frankie Landau Banks and what happened to her during her sophomore year. At the age of fourteen, Frankie was in debate club, her father’s “Bunny Rabbit”, and a mildly geeky girl attending an elite boarding school. But the very next year, she is a “knockout figure”, has a sharp tongue, a chip on her shoulder, and is dating the senior Matthew Livingston. “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.” At age 16, Frankie is possibly a criminal mastermind, and this book is the story of how she got that way.
I don’t remember loving this one the last time I read it, but it was a long time ago, and I’d heard a lot of great things about it since. This book may not be as good as John Green’s best novels, but I do think that it’s better than An Abundance of Katherines and maybe even Will Grayson, Will Grayson. The Disreputable History is somewhat cutesy, but it is also really, really hilarious.
The writing in it is so distinctive; it‘s what you might call omniscient third person. Is that the correct way of describing it? No particular character narrates the story, but the writer of the chronicle (whoever it may be) knows what’s going to happen, and what a lot of the characters are thinking. This was a perfect style to use, because, of course, the book is the story of how Frankie got to be a criminal mastermind, what set her off, and where it started. The reader keeps getting hints of what’s about to happen, and knows things that Frankie doesn’t, which is very frustrating.
This novel is somewhat difficult to get into; in fact, the first twenty pages or so go distinctly slowly. But once you do get into the amazing writing and story, the book flies by. It’s one that the reader doesn’t want to put down. I also liked the reverse negatives. It was very cute, although I will say that that’s not generally a word that you want used about your work.
The pranks, though, were so funny. I also loved reading Frankie’s inner thoughts and strategizing. There are several points in the book when Frankie is in a tough social situation, and she has to think of the right thing to say really, really quickly. And she does, but the reader gets to enter her brain before she does. That’s what I mean about the narrator.
I also loved how the subtle and inadvertent and sometimes advertent sexism at the school was portrayed. It really seemed to work, and it was very disturbingly realistic, the way that Matthew and his friends would treat Frankie. Not badly, per se, just kind of condescendingly
Some elements of this YA novel make it a 5 star, others a 4, but overall, I really enjoyed this one. I’m even considering getting my own copy. It’s a very good read.