I am so glad Elizabeth decided to start off our blog with the inimitable Ms. Landau-Banks. It's very appropriate as The Disreputable History is one of the first books she recommended to me, and the one that made me realize that I had found someone who completely got the indefinable things I adore about books.
So. Frankie. I am full of regret that this book wasn't published when I was in high school. Because E. Lockhart takes on some themes and ideas that I didn't start thinking about until after college. Ones that I still haven't figured out entirely. Namely, how girls sometimes submerge or undermine their true selves when trying to fit in with a guy (especially if he might be the guy) or a group of guys without even realizing what they are doing to themselves.
I think she also nails a pretty elusive idea - that feeling of a girl belonging to a select fraternity (the brotherhood kind, not the beer chugging buddies, though they're not mutually exclusive). And the feeling that you are somehow superior to other girls because you can hang with the boys. Don't get me wrong - I have friendships with guys from way back when that I cherish, but in the hormone-heightened world of college (or a posh co-ed boarding school like the one Frankie attends) it takes a while to figure out how to relate to the opposite sex in a way that allows you to stay true to yourself. And how to do it in a world that starts out with some significant societal advantages on one side of the table.
However, I'm making The Disreputable History sound pretty dreary and after-school-specialy and it's anything but that. It's a boarding school story! About a secret society! It has a heroine who has true evil genius potential. Who is willing to take on the system out of a combination of moral indignation, pique, and sheer rabble-rousing instincts. And despite a few qualms along the way, Frankie has fun, and I had immense fun reading about her, as she throws everything around her into chaos in the name of fairness and gender equity.
Frankie is not at all dreary. It's funny and accessible and righteous, in every meaning of the word.
I would love to be able to offer suggestions for books you'd enjoy if you liked this book, but seriously? The Secret History and Special Topics in Calamity Physics are so spot on, I'm not even going to try. You should read them both. Now.