Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Each day during the month of May, The Hub will feature a post about Teens’ Top Ten. Be sure to check in daily as we visit past winners and current nominees!
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart was one of the ten titles selected in 2009 The Teens’ Top Ten by teens across the country. Amongst its many honors, it was also a 2009 Printz Honor Book so obviously, the reading public has agreed, this book is pretty special. It is a book that has stuck with me since I first read it and has influenced the way I have looked at other young adult fiction titles. It truly made a lasting impression, and for good reason. Frankie Landau-Banks is kick-ass awesome. But she is not without her problems which makes her real and genuine to readers. In the same publication year as The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, (another teens’ top ten book for 2009), a character just as passionately driven to succeed and to win emerged on the literary field. She has perhaps not received the notoriety or viral word of mouth that Katniss and her story has received, but Frankie Landau-Banks could go toe-to-toe with Katniss and who the victor would be, I leave that up to you.
Frankie is a character who has remained with me throughout many, many young adult titles. It is not often that YA authors tackle our patriarchal society with such vigor and verve. Frankie will not be dismissed. She will not stay in the â€œgirlfriendâ€ role. She will gain her own spotlight and if she has to best her boyfriend, best the all-male secret society he keeps hidden from her, well than so be it. Her pranks are humorous, cruel, crushing, and incredibly intelligent. She leads the boys of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds on a merry chase. And what makes her so amazing, so memorable, is her daring and her courage to stand against something that has been ingrained in her school’s culture for years. These are the types of teens that will take over their own little corner of the world, in some way or another.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks has undergone some cover transformations in its time. From the regal and definitely old school fashionable cover invitation to the more contemporary but in this reader’s opinion, rather ugly cover. It does not do Frankie or her story justice at all.
So why did this story make Teens’ top Ten? I can only hazard a guess of course, as an adult reader, but I hope it’s because teens found a bit of themselves in Frankie’s daring pranks, in her questioning of authority, whether a timeless male secret society or her school’s professors. Whether male or female readers, I like to think that teens identified with Frankie’s bravado, her mistakes (because she does make some mistakes), her relationships with the opposite sex, and her determination to go beyond the accepted. Not every teen or adult is going to be quite so courageous about duking it out with authority, but I think Frankie Landau-Banks sets a high standard for characterization.
So what do you think readers? What lasting impressions has The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks created for you? And if you haven’t read this teens’ top ten choice, no more hesitation! This book made this list for a reason and it comes down to amazing writing, flawed but genuine characterization, and another author who understands the pulse of teens’ whims and wants.
—Sarah Wethern, currently reading The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein, about as far as you can get from Frankie Landau-Banks, but an excellent animal adventure.
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