Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.
This is the story of how she got that way.
This novel had everything going for it: private school, underground tunnels, teenage heroine reading P.G. Wodehouse, moments that made you think, even provided considerable insight. I spent hours enjoying every page. Halfway through, however, things began to dwindle, peak and pine.
There were good chunks that I thoroughly savored:
Frankie livening her conversation with neglected positives like “gruntled” (as in, opposite of disgruntled).
The concept of the panopticon—because there’s always the possibility of someone watching, we live as though someone is, sticking to unwritten rules despite their unofficial status.
Frankie’s way of internally reviewing her options before she speaks:
Could say: “Here I am.”
Veto. Sounds coy.
Could say: “Of course I came.”
Veto. Sounds like I idolize him.
Could say: “Why wouldn’t I?”
Veto: He’ll feel awkward answering that question.
Could change the subject.
Veto. People like to be listened to.
Could say: “I’ve never been to a party on the golf course.”
Veto. Too juvenile.
Could say instead: “I’m always up for a party.”
Veto. Too irksome. Plus, sounds like I went to lots of parties last year, which he’ll soon find out I didn’t.
I need to make him laugh. And I need to unsettle him enough so that he’s not entirely certain I like him.
Golf. The golf course.
“I’m a halfway decent golfer,” said Frankie after only a 2.8 second pause. “I never turn down the chance to play a few holes.”
But then stuff started bugging me. The stakes weren’t high enough, for one thing. Frankie enjoyed being notorious, but is there a point to being notorious for getting a salad bar in the cafeteria? Where’s the triumph in that, seriously?
Lockhart’s reverse-feminism bugged me, too. By definition, feminism should celebrate the distinctive aspects of womanhood. Instead, this heroine degrades her sex by esteeming acceptance into a male fraternity above anything else. Frankie is infuriated when her friend prefers making rhubarb crumble to being included in a boys’ club. This implies that traditional female pursuits are intrinsically less valuable than traditional male pursuits.
Reading this novel was certainly not unpleasant, but in the end, I was far from gruntled. Lockhart’s auspicious beginning set me up for a grand finale, but unfortunately, her fireworks fizzled.