The disreputable history of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart
Allen & Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781760113308
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Humour, Boarding school, Relationships, Secret societies, Gender, Power. At fourteen, Frankie is small, under developed and a bit geeky, but over the summer, boys begin to notice her and in her second year at the prestigious boarding school, Alabaster, she attracts the attention of one boy, senior Matthew Livingstone, and joins his group. But has she? This tongue in cheek story has her being with the group in the cafe, going on clandestine excursions with them, but curiously simply part of the wallpaper. Biting commentary on the rich and famous at this school kept me reading as some like Matthew go to great lengths to never mention their wealth, but it shows all the same. Their lives are laid out for them: a very exclusive school, then on to Harvard, later taking over the family firm. The smugness of Matthew and many of his male friends reflects the power that only the rich can command, and Frankie comes to realise that she wants to be part of it. But the girls are simply there as window dressing to do as expected. But not so Frankie. The more she becomes involved with Matthew, the more the reader can see how one sided the relationship is: his friends come before Frankie, a phone call from Alpha means Frankie is left - immediately, Matthew has no interest whatsoever in her friends, home and family, and breaks dates with her without explanation.
Made of sterner stuff, she sets out to infiltrate their secret society, one that her father mentioned, The Loyal Order of Bassett Hounds. She inadvertently saw one meeting in progress, and resenting her lowly position within the group, decides to spy on them, a skill for which she finds she has some talent.
Frankie infiltrates the all male group, using Alpha's name to send out plans that are carried out religiously. She causes mayhem on the campus, setting up audacious pranks, the dogs wagging their tails to her bidding. She finds the original book for the Loyal Order and things come to a head when she sees that people still think Alpha is pulling the strings.
A funny and biting look at the society within the elite school, Frankie's character is wholly entertaining as she develops her powers, both within herself and over the boys' secret society. A fabulous addition to the growing chick-lit stable of great literature, replete with discussions about societies, gender, words and power. Frankie's interest in secret societies injects the background of this story as does her interest in words and their derivations and usages, all adding to the humour of the tale.