Reputable Thoughts on a Disreputable History

-2Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at Alabaster boarding school in Massachusetts, and she is entirely too smart for her own good. It’s her best kept secret; people are constantly underestimating her, especially her family. And it’s driving her insane.

So begins The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (by E. Lockhart).

The story of how Frankie infiltrates and anonymously takes over the Basset Hounds–an all-boys secret society that her senior boyfriend is co-president of, and that her Old Boy father was a part of during the Golden Days–is engaging and funny. The foreboding as she teeters at the top of the heap is palpable. We know the ending from the first chapter, but can’t help loving the ride.

Like many high school sophomores, Frankie is prone to obsession. At times it’s harmless; her quirk for P.G. Wodehouse’s imaginary neglected positives (“whelmed,” as opposed to “overwhelmed” or “underwhelmed”) is cute. Her obsession with the panopticon, meanwhile–that is, the feeling that the rule makers are always watching, even when they cannot possibly see the rule breakers–might be what drives her to the top, and over the edge.

For such an intelligent girl, Frankie has unfortunate taste in men. Her first boyfriend cheated on her. The second treats her like a child. And there’s Alpha–co-president of the Bassets, a bit of a rebel, whose identity she assumes in her rise to power–with whom she clearly shares a connection. Their relationship never resolves itself, which is irksome. It’s one of the many unanswered questions at the end of the story. It’s unsatisfying in a bittersweet sort of way, and yet it couldn’t have gone any differently.

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