I am not asking that you indulge my behavior; merely that you do not dulge it without considering its context.
I'm not really the target audience for a book like The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It's a young adult book, and (based on the subject matter) intended, I'm sure, for girls rather than boys. But, it's about a particularly geeky girl and for that and various other reasons I thought it looked like it would be worth checking out. Now having read it, I think it will also make a pretty good book to mention on GeekDad, particularly with some of the stuff lately about being a girl geek.
Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at Alabaster Prepatory Academy in northern Massachusetts; Alabaster is sort of a mixture of various prep-schools, but also has the flavor of Ivy League colleges, just with younger kids. Somewhere between the beginning of freshman year and the end of sophomore year, Frankie transitioned from being her family's "Bunny Rabbit" (innocuous, helpless, mildly geeky and somewhat awkward) to being a campus hottie, dating a senior, and masterminding some of the most elaborate pranks at Alabaster since her father's days as a student.
There was a lot to enjoy in the book: first and foremost, the pranks, largely inspired by infamous college pranks and legends of steam tunnels running underneath campuses throughout New England. Also, both Frankie and her boyfriend Matthew are word geeks: Matthew (whose father is a well-known newspaper tycoon) is a walking dictionary, and Frankie enjoys playing with "neglected positives," like "dulge" from "indulge" or "maculate" from "immaculate." There's a small section in which the Debate Club has a debate about whether to join the Geek Conglomerate, a collection of geeky clubs (Chess Club, Spy Club, etc.) who banded together because of low membership, and the description of the debate is, naturally, quite geeky.
Frankie herself, though, turns out to be a fascinating character. Yes, she's a high schooler and thinks about cute boys. But she's also not content to be arm candy, and wants to be truly one of the gang. Unfortunately, the boys are part of the Loyal Order of Basset Hounds, a semi-secret society which will never accept girls; so Frankie takes things into her own hands. Lockhart does an excellent job striking a balance, so that Frankie doesn't come off as simply an anti-social manipulator, but she also refuses to let anyone walk over her. Instead, she is a pretty complex character, a masterful strategist, and still a fifteen-year-old who hates to turn down a good party. The other characters are a little less fleshed-out, although some of the other major characters manage to avoid being flat stereotypes.
While I don't necessarily want to encourage my kids to pull pranks and break rules, I do think this is the sort of book I'd prefer my kids to be reading when they're teenagers, rather than something like, oh, Twilight. It encourages the reader to question things and really think about what we do, what we're expected to do. It also breaks out of the traditional romantic comedy mode and analyzes the few ways "most girls" would react to some situations, with Frankie of course taking some other course of action entirely.
I'd recommend this one to teenagers looking for something a little different. While it's intended for girls and the boys do get shown up a bit by Frankie, I don't think it would hurt for more teenage boys to read something like this, either.
Fed to jonathan's brain | September 03, 2009 | Comments (0)