Friday, November 13, 2009


Have you ever felt like you’ve been excluded from a group? This is exactly how Frankie Landau-Banks feels. Frankie feels like she is underestimated by everyone around her. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart is a refreshing, modern coming of age story.

Frankie returns to her school, Alabaster Prep, and it is now her sophomore year. People who haven’t noticed her before begin to notice that she has changed. Frankie’s body has bloomed into a beautiful girl. Matthew Livingston, a popular senior, finally notices her and they begin to date.

All the boys around her seem to have a secret. None of them seem to be honest with her, not even her boyfriend. Frankie doesn’t understand why Matthew is always ditching her for something more important. Frankie knows that he is part of an all male secret society called the Basset Hounds.

Frankie’s father was a member of the Basset Hounds when he attended Alabaster Prep. This is how Frankie knows about the secret society and that they have a book called The Disreputable History. Frankie finds the book before the boys do and begins to plan the pranks that the boys will carry out. No one knows that Frankie is the one who is the criminal mastermind behind all the pranks going on at Alabaster Prep. Through her devious plots and pranks, Frankie creates her own version of The Disreputable History. The novel is not only about her adding to the Basset’s history of pranks, but also her own history of becoming who she wants to be.

Throughout the novel, Frankie refers to the panopticon. This idea of the panopticon is interesting because Frankie is constantly watching the boys and hiding at the Basset Hound meetings. They are being watched by Frankie and don’t even know. At times Frankie feels like she herself is being watched.

This is a great novel for young adults because it allows teens to recognize that they don’t have to conform to what others want them to be. In addition, it shows teens not to exclude others or to underestimate the abilities of anyone. In some ways, the story has a feminist feel because Frankie responds to the boys exclusion.

At the end of the story the reader finds out what happens with Frankie and the Basset Hounds. Frankie defines who she is and the way she wants to be seen. This novel does not contain controversial topics, but does focus on gender stereotypes.

I would recommend this book to be taught in both middle and high school. Since it does not have controversial topics, anyone can read this book. In addition, students can learn to stop gender stereotyping from the plot of this book. I think students would easily be attracted to the plot because it seems like everyone is keeping secrets and has something to hide. Also, Frankie felt like she was excluded from the Basset Hounds. Many teens today feel like they have been excluded from groups, cliques, etc.


Donna N said...


I would imagine it was refreshing to read something without any controversial issues. Light books are also important for kids to read. Gender stereotypes is an issue that we all come up against as some point in our lives and reading a book like this may help us to overcome that obstacle.


Anne said...

Glad to see there was a lighter book around. i feel like everything we have been reading would not be suitable for every student. While I think it is great to learn from books and I have seen the benefits from everybook we have read, a book for FUN is nice to see. This book sounds dark and mysterious too; I just kept picturing that movie "The Skulls" ( )

Amy said...

I found the idea of panopticon very interesting. I also like the idea behind this book simply because it sounds like a good "girl power" book. This might be good for both young girls and boys - girls being because it might give them a boost of confidence and boys because it might help them see that girls can be just as clever, and sometimes devious, as boys.

Tom Philion said...

tamar--i concur with the comments above; the cover looks interesting to me. conveys the elite cultural context it sounds like is in the novel.

could you add a final paragraph evaluating the book, and especially giving us your recommendations for use in school, or not, and/or in what situations?


heather said...

Wow! When I first started reading your review I thought to myself "Eh, sounds like another 'girly' book that it would be difficult to have young males read." But by the time I had finished reading your review I had completely changed my mind! As Amy said, I think the whole concept of panopticon very interesting as well, and I think that if you were having your students read this book, you could do a bit on psychology with relation to this aspect! This would be something I think both males and females could get into.

I also just think that the idea of a secret society can reach both males and females... It seems that every few years or so there are movies that come out which use secret societies in their plot, as Anne hinted to in her comment.

As it seems with so many other books reviewed on Book Wind, I think I'll have to add this to my list!

averch said...

It seems as though there is almost a hint of Feminism to this book. Going back to that old thought of boys will be boys but the girls must sit proper. Its a great book to strike up a discussion with your students. I would use it to talk about women's rights and 1919. It could show that even though there are major changes since 1919, there are still some underlying steryotypes and thoughts. But that's just the history teacher in me though.