by E. Lockhart
E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau–Banks (Hyperion, 2008) is not only one of the most enjoyable teen novels that I’ve read in a long time, but it’s also one of smartest. It’s smartly written, with a cast of well–drawn characters; it has an intelligent and witty narrative voice; and Lockhart has created an original and thought–provoking plot that carries a serious message along with its good humor. (This would be a terrific choice for mother–daughter book groups.) Twelve- to fifteen-year old girls looking for a relationship novel that’s neither sappy, angst–y, nor a fantasy need search no further: here it is. Frankie starts her sophomore year at Alabaster Prep a changed young woman from the geeky freshman she was just a few months ago. When she starts going out with handsome Matthew, the senior boy who’s the catch of the campus, she’s pretty sure she’s left all remnants of the old nerdy Frankie behind. But when she learns that Matthew is the president of an all–male secret society of juniors and seniors at the school called “The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds,” her immense annoyance at being excluded simply because she’s female leads her to come up with a brilliantly inventive (if perhaps slightly illegal) scheme to get back at the club members. But I think the caper–filled plot — entertaining as it is — is Lockhart’s method to get us interested in knowing Frankie, who is purely and simply a delight. She’s a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, she loves words (I foresee a lot of engaged readers playing with the notion of “neglected positives”if —being disgruntled means you’re not happy about something, why not use gruntled when you are?) and she’s not afraid to either ask questions or challenge accepted norms. I wish I had been exactly like her when I was 15.