Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Lockhart, E. 2008. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

I may get a few boos for this one. But I couldn't quite like it*. Blame it on the tense. Third person past tense (as far as I can reckon). Or blame it on the expostulating tone, purposefully pretentious and off-putting. A blend of intelligence and condescension. It's not like every page was of this style, but there were little asides by the narrator--I suppose it's the narrator--that just intruded in on the story. Created too much distance for my taste. Added in too much reflection.
How does a person become the person she is? What are the factors in her culture, her childhood, her education, her religion, her economic stature, her sexual orientation, her race, her everyday interactions--what stimuli lead her to make choices other people will despise her for?
This chronicle is an attempt to mark out the contributing elements in Frankie Landau-Banks's character. What led her to do what she did: things she would later view with a curious mixture of hubris and regret. Frankie's mental processes had been stimulated by Ms. Jensson's lectures on the panopticon , her encounters with Alpha, her mother's refusal to let her walk into town on the Jersey Shore, her observation of the joy Matthew took in rescuing her from her bicycle accident, and her anger at Dean for not remembering her. All these were factors in what happened next... (107)
I do like several things about it however. I just have a love-hate relationship with the narrative style. There are paragraphs that I love, and there are paragraphs that I hate. Phrases that I think are a bit too much, and phrases that I think are just right. I like how the first chapter begins, for example, "Though not, in hindsight, so startling as the misdeeds she would perpetrate when she returned to boarding school as a sophomore, what happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer after her freshman year was a shock." I think both the prologue and the first few chapters offer quite a hook or incentive to readers.

Frankie is a boarding school student whose sophomore year presents great opportunities for adventure and misadventure. She'll experience the ups and downs of having a relationship with a "popular" boy, a real somebody. Rich too. Her old friendships will be threatened by the aforementioned relationship and all that brings about. Frankie is smart. She's determined. She's got her own way of seeing the world. And none of those things are bad. All quite good actually.

It's not Frankie that I dislike but the meddling narrator who likes to tell instead of show.

*I'll qualify this statement. Based on the all the buzz, the hype, I couldn't "like" it as much as I "should". See, this is one that has been getting love all over the place. People saying it's the best of the best, one of the year's must-reads. A book people are just raving about. I didn't think it was that good, that deserving. But it's a good read. A solid read. I wouldn't put this one in my top ten of the year. I probably wouldn't even have it in the top twenty. But it is a good book all the same. In other words, I've read dozens and dozens that I disliked more than this one.

This is neither here nor there. But one of the things I found unbelievable was that Frankie's sister, Zada, took her under her wing. Zada's a senior. Frankie was a freshman. She let Frankie sit with her and her junior and senior friends at lunch. She allowed Frankie to tag along with her. To be a part of her "cool" set of friends. I have a hard time believing that even a good sister would do this. I shared two years of school with my sister, we overlapped two years I mean, and never once would I have been encouraged/allowed to sit with her at lunch. To hang out with her friends at school. It was one thing to be allowed to tag along after school (on occasion) or at home.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


MySharonAnne said...

I have to agree with you. Her writing style turned me off so much that I don't think I will be finishing the book. I really wanted to love this book too, because I've heard such good things about it.

Anonymous said...

I too was surprised with the sisters relationship. I thought it was a nice touch but I don't know how believable it was. I liked this book well enough but it's not one of my favorites. I liked how she was "smarter" than all the boys but I couldn't quite understand why she wanted to be part of their group to begin with. I have this one sitting in my review pile.

Noël De Vries said...

I gave it thumbs down, too, amid loud hosannas from a lot of other readers.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was an interesting book, but I too didn't exactly like it. Throughout the book I just wanted to shake Frankie and tell her to get over her obsession with besting the boys as well to get over her obnoxious boyfriend. Oddly, I still find myself hoping for a sequel to tie up the loose ends.

Rebecca Reid said...

I didn't like it either, but I never read YA, so it was probably just a poor choice for one of my first. Review going up tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I adore young adult books. I can relate so well to this book, except for the sister, but maybe she's just dreaming. I wish I had a sister like that, you know? And even though I'm a girl, I still want to be admired by boys the way Frankie did. And especially, I want in on an old boys club. Those connections, all the pranks. I loved the book, needless to say. You're all old hags :)