Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I requested E. Lockhart's YA novel, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks from the library after I read the discussion of it over at 7-Imp (make sure you read the comments, too). It's gotten good reviews everywhere, of course (I especially liked Little Willow's), but the discussion at 7-Imp, which focused on Frankie as a feminist heroine (an ambiguous one, at that), was what really grabbed me. I'm really glad it did--what a fun book! I'm starting to compile a list of contemporary boarding school novels, too--having loved Looking for Alaska* (and then of course there's that long series of books that mostly take place in a boarding school, albeit a slightly strange one), I am wondering if there's a little mini-renaissance of the form going on. It's in many ways a perfect setting for a novel--after all, you've got lots of adolescents, few adults, rules, traditions, and the intense relationships that develop when adolescents live together. And yet the boarding school novels that I've read are all quite different. In this one, our heroine is a sophomore, and the novel begins when she is "chosen" by one of the coolest boys in school to be his girlfriend after she develops over the summer. What I love about Frankie is that she both 1) knows and 2) resents the reasons for his interest, but also 3) really likes him so goes along anyway. That is, she's smart, but realistic. And the novel keeps getting better as she analyzes and questions the traditions she's a part of, while also finding them intriguing and maybe even worth perpetuating. Can I just say how cool it is that she is inspired by a teacher who cites Foucault in class, and that the panopticon becomes a governing metaphor for her? Yes, she's a geek, but she's a geek in the popular kids' world, and that generates the conflict that motivates the novel. I can't say any more without giving too much away--so I'll stop. But read it.**

*so why didn't I review it? Doh!
**Second, more gratuitous John Green reference: Frankie would make a great girlfriend for Colin, of An Abundance of Katherines. Or maybe their shared geekiness would just be too much. But between her wordplay and his pleasure in anagrams, I thought they'd be a good match.


  1. Thank you for the link and the compliments!

    I think Frankie and Colin could be friends, perhaps pen pals; they'd communicate in nicely handwritten letters.

    I too love books set at boarding school. I have a boarding school booklist.

  2. I'd love to see your list, Little Willow. I have a few favorites, but I am not really up on the British series books (Malory Towers?), of which I think there may be many. My favorite until recently was always James Kirkwood's Good Times/Bad Times.