But just who are these Hounds and what did they do? Who is Frances and why would she send her fellow students on these random acts of disruption?
Alabaster was once an all-male prep school. Even after it became co-educational, its secret society remained a boys-only club. The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds was famous - infamous, really - for its pranks, which were more kooky than cruel, more sophomoric than serious.
Frankie was once a quiet girl. Even after she became a curvy sophomore, she remained true to herself, not really aware of her new looks. Then she got her first serious boyfriend, and she was content with their relationship - for a time.
Before she was (in)famous, Frankie was the harmless little sister, the underclassman, the girl who knew but didn't really know. She was the younger sister of outspoken senior Zada. She was the youngest child of divorced parents, getting her name from her father, Alabaster alum Frank Banks and her conservative nature from her mother, Ruth. She enjoyed her freshman year at boarding school. She enjoyed the summer after her freshman year, when she read Dorothy Parker stories on vacation and had a chance encounter that would later prove interesting.
The book follows her through the age of fifteen, then sixteen, as her sophomore year and her curiosity lead her down an interesting path. After learning about the Order, she quickly assumes power over the group - without any of the boys knowing it. What happens next is a quiet riot, a series of misadventures involving (though not simultaneously) a statue of a fish, a Superman T-shirt, a lot of dog masks, a burned arm, and a small notebook.
Both snarky and serious, this History is written by the victors: the memorable narrator and the author. Frankie is smart, grounded, and direct, but she also has a quirky side. She has a thing for "impeas," imagined neglected positives, like ept as opposed to inept or gruntled as opposed to disgruntled. Author E. Lockhart (The Boyfriend List, Dramarama) writes with heart and authentic feeling. In this novel, she uses third-person present-tense, yet is able to capture her protagonist's thoughts and actions so well that readers will feel as though they are Frankie's roommates.
This book is, dare I say, a coming-of-age story. It's not about breaking the rules, nor it is about controlling others. It's about daring: daring to be yourself, daring to stand up for yourself, daring to step outside of your comfort zone, daring to change the world. This novel possesses all of the elements necessary for a good bildungsroman, following the protagonist's journey through her formative years. History has an incredible conclusion*, and Frankie becomes a remarkable young woman.
* The last line of the book is my favorite, but I won't reveal it here.
Read the first three chapters of the book.
Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Check out a roundtable discussion with readers of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.
Read my interviews with E. Lockhart:
2008 (with E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle)
When Maryrose Wood learned that I loved this book and that I recommend her novel My Life: The Musical alongside E.'s book Dramarama, she said: "E. is very flattering company to be in, thank you! I'm a huge fan of her books and her as a person too. Disreputable History is fabulous, a shoo-in for one of the top YA books of 2008, so read it, everyone!"