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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksReview - The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
A Novel
by E. Lockhart
Brilliance Audio, 2008
Review by Christian Perring
Dec 1st 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 49)

Frankie Landau-Banks is in her second year at Alabaster Prep in northern Massachusetts.  Over the summer she filled out, and at 15, she suddenly is getting the attention of seniors.  Frankie likes this change, but it also means that she gets to see more of the side of the prep school for the rich that she does not like.  It used to be just for boys, and although it now has plenty of girls, the power still lies in secret clubs that are male-only.  She also learns about these clubs from her father, who belonged to them when he was a boy there. He goes on about how it was the best time of his life.  Frankie is tired of being treated as inferior to boys, especially because she is extremely smart and inventive.  So she sets about playfully undermining the male-privilege of her school through sardonic subterfuge and mild mockery of the school's provisions. 

Prospective readers will get a sense of the linguistic fun Lockheart has with this novel for young adults in the preview.  This is hardly a work of radical feminism, but it will raise some consciousness about gender inequality and the subtle ways in which young women experience discrimination.  But Frankie is no victim, and she takes action with gusto.  The book is a fun book to read, full of richly descriptive energetic writing.  The plot moves quickly and while it is involves some implausible events, it is good in its psychology.  I especially liked Frankie's realization that other people pretend to not recognize her as a way of maintaining power. 

I can't say how accurate a depiction of prep school the book gives.  Lockheart gives the impression that it is the sort of place where most of the leaders of government and industry go.  It is a world that will be unfamiliar to most people, and it is both attractive and repulsive. Most of the students seem smug and even arrogant, while also being very talented and eager to take advantages of the opportunities available to them.  These wealthy students are extremely articulate, and they get a great education.  I was especially struck by Frankie learning about Michel Foucault's discussion of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon, and Frankie applying the idea to understand the prep school she attends.  This was funny for me since I had just been teaching the same idea to a graduate class, and the students (none of whom had attended a prep school) had never heard of Foucault before. 

The performance of this novel on the unabridged audiobook by Tanya Eby Sirois is great.  She makes the characters sympathetic and brings a wide variety of intonations to the reading.

 

Link: E. Lockhart website

 

© 2009 Christian Perring         

           

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.

 

 


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