I was looking for a light “romance” to read for my library summer reading program, and I decided to go completely out of my comfort zone by reading a YA novel with a romance in it.
So because it was such a foreign genre, I suppose I was setting myself up to be disappointed by reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. It just wasn’t my type of book, and it unfortunately reinforced in my mind the stereotypes I have of YA fiction. Lots of people like this book (in fact, I think I found 2 negative reviews out of about 50), but as a newcomer to the YA genre, I am not one of them.
All that said, I suppose The Disreputable History has a good underlying message for teens. Frankie returns to her preppy boarding school for her sophomore year having suddenly developed an attractive figure. Even the cutest boy in school, Matthew Livingston, notices her, and Frankie is flattered to be included in his exclusive circle. And yet, Frankie increasingly feels she is not quite accepted as the individual (and young woman) that she is, and so she takes matters in to her own hands, having lots of fun in the process. *SPOILER* In the end, Frankie realizes she doesn’t need or even want to be a part of the cliquey circle of snobs: she likes herself the way she is and not the way the boys tell her to be. (cue sappy music)
If that sounds a bit formulaic, I have to agree that the underlying plot was so. The details made it interesting in many parts, but I didn’t find myself engaged in the story at all until more than 100 pages of background were covered and Frankie was doing something interesting. The story was told in an “exposé” tone that gave it an unnecessary dryness. Besides, Frankie was constantly making up words. This may have been cute but there was enough about the book that I disliked that I found these made-up words to be rather annoying. There were also some boring parts, such as excerpts from Frankie’s school papers.
Beyond all that, the main thing that bothered me about The Disreputable History was the stereotypes. Everyone in this book seemed to fit into a stereotype. Matthew’s crowd included the “popular” teens, completely spacey, rude, and judgmental. Trish (Frankie’s roommate) was the confident girl that already had self-esteem, hinting all along how it would end up. The members of the Geek Conglomerate were geeks. And Frankie was the girl who had to choose where she fit in, complete with the drama of suddenly being popular after previously being one of the geeks.
The stereotypical crowds and the judgments associated with them was what I hated when I was in high school. In retrospect, I don’t think anyone in high school was a stereotype, and I dislike the thought of a novel for teenagers encouraging people to judge by “crowds” like this. Obviously, in the end, the novel is emphasizing the opposite, but the majority of the novel was quite irritating to me. Why would Frankie want to hang out with Matthew Livingston in the first place? I seriously don’t get it. He had no positive points in his personality. (And no, his being cute is not a personality point.)
I didn’t hate this book; I just didn’t like it. I read a comment a few weeks ago somewhere that said, in essence, “I hate it when someone trashes a book after they say they don’t usually read that type of book.” I don’t believe The Disreputable History deserves to be trashed, and I’ve tried hard not to do so. There are good points to it, and there are also many points I personally did not like. I believe that you may like it far more than I did. Many people do, citing Frankie as a strong character, Frankie as an ideal feminist, Frankie as a perfect role model for a daughter.
In the end, I fully admit that I missed the point of this book. I personally can’t imagine a teen relating to Frankie’s rich boarding school experiences, let alone suffering through the boring chapters of the novel. I’m not the target audience, though, and I am honestly not close enough to any teens to know what is realistic or not.
If you liked this book (and it seems the majority does love it), I’d love to know what grabbed you in to it. What aspect made The Disreputable History great for you? How do you relate to Frankie’s dilemma?
What YA novels go beyond stereotype? I felt that Uglies (which I read and reviewed last week) didn’t have stereotypical main characters, so that had given me hope for this one as well as the rest of the genre. Alas, this non-futuristic high school novel was still full of stereotypical cliques and longing to be “popular,” the stereotypes I have always associated in my mind with YA novels.
I’m the minority on not loving this book, so go read these other (mostly glowing) reviews:
- Sophisticated Dorkiness (the review that got me to read the book; she loved it)
- Becky’s Book Reviews (like me, Becky didn’t like it)
- Mere Musings
- Fyrefly Books Blog
- Books Lists Life
- Teen Book Review
- The Book Bind
- The Well-Read Child
- The Children’s Literature Book Club
- Maw Books Blog
- Bookshelves of Doom
- The Curious Reader
- Teen Troves
- B is for Books
- Book Nut
- Presenting Lenore
- Stuff as Dreams are Made On
- The Story Siren
- Library Queue
- The Reading Zone
- Books and Other Thoughts
- Bending Bookshelf
- Casual Dread
- The Family With Three Last Names
- A Patchwork of Books
- Sassymonkey Reads
- Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
- Steph and Tony Investigate
I copied a list from a different blog (Fyrefly’s). There are tons of reviews out there! If you have reviewed The Disreputable History and I missed yours, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.