Saturday, August 16, 2008

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am not a very good feminist. I always thought I was sort of fair to middling, but now I realize that I usually only see something through a feminist viewpoint if someone else points it out to me. It's something I'd like to change.

In fact, I wish I had had this book when I was a teenager (or, more specifically, I wish it has existed when I was a teenager) because it really made some great points about being a young woman in a male dominated society.

Frankie Landau-Banks attends a prestigious boarding school whose students go on to Ivy-League colleges, big business and politics. At first, she doesn't think much about the Old Boys network she is a part of until she decides she really wants to be a part of it — and can't. It might have to do with the fact that she's not rich enough, not well-connected enough, maybe even not Christian enough (at all) — or it might just be that she's not male enough.

I loved the way the author wove in the feminist ideas without beating people over the head with them. Frankie's older sister is away in college at Berkley and has a lot of strong feminist ideas, not all of which Frankie is ready to accept. After Frankie's (rich, powerful, old boy) boyfriend gives her his favorite T-shirt, Frankie and Zada have the following conversation:

But when she told Zada about it, Zada said, "Ugh. Frankie, don't be so retro. I mean, Matthew's a good guy and all, but wearing his T-shirt is like wearing a sign that says 'Property of Matthew Livingston' on your breasts."


"Well, it is."

"It is not."

"It's like he's marking you."

"On the contrary," Frankie snapped. "He gave me something he loves, something he usually wouldn't want to be without."

Throughout the book, Frankie needs to make up her own mind about how she sees the world. Unfortunately, she doesn't always like what she sees. But the author doesn't villify anyone, either. There are other young women in the book who are happy being trophy girlfriends, or enjoy being domestic and fitting traditional female roles, and neither Frankie nor the author judge them for their decisions. They leave that entirely up to the reader.

Even the boys, who are sometimes less than virtuous knights in shining armor, aren't truly the villains of this story. They are as much the heroes of their own stories as Frankie is of hers.

The story was fun and rambunctious even without getting into feminist theory, but I think the underlying message is a really great one for young women to think about — and make up their own minds about. I wish I'd had a big sister Zada, or an E. Lockheart to make me think about these things when I was a teen.

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