Friday, March 5, 2010

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

I was watching "American Idol" a couple weeks ago. Everyone kind of sucks this season, which is kind of awesome. Anyways, one of the contestants sang:

This is a man's world/But it wouldn't be nothing without a woman or a girl

I particularly remember that song because its sentiment intrigued me. I could see it as a feminist statement, that men can't get anything done by themselves. Conversely, it can be interpreted that the guys get everything done while us womenfolks just stand there and look pretty, maybe fetch some beverages. That brings me to my ninth read, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I can see Frankie agreeing with both of these interpretations.

Frankie comes back to Alabaster Preparatory School for her sophomore year with bigger..."tracts of land" as Monty Python put it. She soon nets popular Senior Matthew Livingston as her boyfriend and enters his world, a world where women are expected to stand around the golf course while the boys have their parties, where they are expected to give the menfolks space when they cancel dates or make excuses to run off for mysterious male bonding sessions. So far, we're really leaning towards the anti-feminist interpretation.

Here enters the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. The Bassets are a secret all-male society at Alabaster that basically bond and drink and occasionally play pranks. Frankie's father has been telling her stories of the society for years, and through a little light detective work, she finds out that this is to where her boyfriend and most of his friends have been disappearing. Frankie is jealous of the Bassets, not because they are taking Matthew away from her, but because she wants to be a part of the bonding. Unfortunately, that path seems blocked.

Then, after the retrieval of the long-lost Disreputable History of the Loyal Order of Basset Hounds and a gmail account impersonating one of the Bassets, Frankie actually becomes one of them. Almost. She turns the lackadaisical society around. She comes up with actual awesome pranks and the pranks actually have points and they even effect change. "Wouldn't mean nothing without a woman," indeed!

The only problem with the entire scheme is that Frankie gets tired of being anonymous. She gets tired of someone else taking the credit for what she orchestrated. Nobody suspects her to be capable of such things. Her parents call her Bunny Rabbit and her boyfriend calls her adorable.

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.

I love Frankie Landau-Banks because I love that there is a character in young adult literature who doesn't just conform to everyone around her. She likes having Matthew as her boyfriend, but she still wants more. She doesn't just let him call her adorable and be done with it. She has issues with girls going off to do girly things instead of taking the opportunity of mingling with the guys. She theorizes that if girls stay home enough times baking crumbles, (Book's example) then soon the guys will no longer invite them and further more, will expect freshly baked goodies when they come back. The door will have closed. Frankie detests a closed door.
Simply put, she wants more.

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 she should be. That Bunny Rabbit is dead.

*For those who do not know, the neglected positive is a root word that is not commonly used except with a prefix. For example, using "petuous" for careful as the opposite of impetuous, or "nocuous" for offensive as the opposite of innocuous. Frankie Landau-Banks takes pleasure in using the neglected positive. It's only a little bit annoying.

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