Summary (Amazon): 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. Frankie Landau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
My Review (Spoilers!!)
Executive Summary: relatable
I read another book by E. Lockhart earlier this year which I really liked so I thought I would also read this one. It did not disappoint!
The book begins with a letter from Frankie (Frances) to Headmaster Richmond and the Board of Directors at Alabaster Preparatory Academy confessing to a variety of crimes. It’s definitely going to be a good book!
In between freshman and sophomore years of school (at Alabaster Preparatory Academy), Frankie grows up physically, but her parents still consider her to be “Bunny”. She had been doing OK socially at school because her sister was a senior last year and was fairly popular. After her sister left for college, Frankie, her mother, and some uncles and cousins went to the Jersey Shore. On the last day, fully fed up with the youngins tries to convince her mother to let her go into town and eventually her mother settles on letting her go to the boardwalk (even though her 12 year old cousin was allowed to go into town alone). She meets a cute boy there but doesn’t get his name.
Frankie’s dad also went to Alabaster. He and Frankie’s mom separated when she was young, but he pays for the girls’ tuition to his alma mater. Senior (as Frankie’s dad is called) remembers high school fondly as the best time of his life.
Upon returning to school, she spends time as typical 15 year old girls do. Avoiding her last-year boyfriend Porter (who she caught cheating on her with Bess Montgomery), crushing after a new boy (Matthew Livingston), and navigating popularity. Her roommate Trish was a good friend although interested in much different stuff than Frankie. She had a boyfriend Artie who she’d had for a long time who would prove to be very useful in the end.
During a bike ride to the pool, Frankie spots Matthew and accidentally (or is it?) crashes her bike. Matthew comes over to her and they begin flirting. He assumes that she is a freshman, and she corrects that she is a sophomore. Her sister had introduced her to Matthew on multiple occasions, but he has forgotten (either intentionally or not). Regardless, they leave the “scene of the accident” together.
Matthew and Frankie become some sort of an item, and Matthew tells her about his friend Alpha who has returned from New York. When Frankie sees him, she realizes that he is the boy she met on the Boardwalk. But he pretends that he doesn’t recognize her even when she baits him. She’s Matthew’s now, and Alpha doesn’t want to step on any toes. But Frankie also realizes that all of the popular kids pretend not to notice the small people because it makes them feel powerful. And it pisses her off.
Frankie switches out her elective from Latin to Cities, Art, and Protest. During this class, they talk about the panopticon (which gave me some déjà vu as it was heavily discussed in the last book I read!) which starts putting some ideas into Frankie’s head.
Matthew finally (after other invitations had already been distributed) invites Frankie to the party of the year. When she gets the invitation, she notices that the seal on the envelope is a Basset Hound which sparks some memories of her father. The “Bassets” were/are a club on campus that is men only and top secret. Based on Senior’s stories, Frankie deduces that all the Bassets ever did was cause mischief. However, she knows that they kept a record of the mischievous deeds in a notebook that they called The Disreputable History.
As Matthew starts being more secretive with her as time goes on, blowing her off to hang out with Alpha, she decides to do a bit of sleuthing. She realizes that the current Bassets have no idea where The Disreputable History is any more. (The Bassets of past hid it somewhere for safe keeping but no one knows exactly where.) Frankie remembers some of Senior’s drunken reminiscing with friends and realizes that the song that they were singing was actually the treasure map to find this notebook so she locates the notebook on her own (utilizing her roommate’s boyfriend’s set of school keys which she has copied), reads all of the exciting pranks that were committed, and deduces that the Bassets of current are super lame comparatively. So she decides to become the secret orchestrator of Basset pranks!
Her own relationship with Matthew is a typical teenage relationship–tumultuous. She is contacted by her ex who warns her about Matthew. Matthew gives her his favorite t-shirt and she is torn between loving it and hating being marked as property. The confusion is not aided by her Berkley-attending sister either.
Also at this point, Frankie discovers an infatuation with what she calls “neglected positives” and “imaginary neglected positives”. As in impetuous means hotheaded, unthinking, impulsive. However, the word petuous does not exist. So it’s an imaginary neglected positive that could be used for a synonym of careful. The whole thing cracked me up as Frankie continues to use words like gruntled (disgruntled), turbed (distubed), etc. throughout the book.
Her first prank was executed for Halloween. Alpha’s mom conveniently pulled him out of school a few days prior to this for a yoga retreat which allows Frankie to alias herself as “THEALPHADOG” online. Trish’s boyfriend is dressing up as a woman for Halloween which gives her an idea. Boobs are (indirectly obviously) the reason that she can’t join the Bassets. She emails the Basset members their roles, and when the students awake on Halloween, all statues and portraits (and even a few trees) throughout campus have bras affixed to them. The main prank though was for the library dome which had a tan parachute with a pink center covering it with a sign saying “IN THE LADIES WE TRUST”. Everyone is atwitter about it, but Matthew and the others keep completely mum, which mostly pisses Frankie off. When Alpha returns, he takes credit for the prank although it’s clear he is very confused. Frankie decides to up the stakes.
She emails Alpha directly from thealphadog gmail address. She mentions how she now has The Disreputable History and he is mad. Prank number two involves a little bit of breaking and entering, but she has realized that no one at the school is paying that close of attention (or caring enough about it). She found an entrance into the old, unused gym, and creates a path for others to get into it afterwards. A week or so later, the windows in the old gym were illuminated with Basset hound figures wearing Santa hats. Upon the success of this, she can’t stop. She has all of the Bassets learn how to draw Basset hounds, break into buildings and draw them on the chalkboards. She masterminds sending every seniorclassman a rubber dog mask to be worn to the school concert. Alpha keeps emailing her but she manages to brush him off.
Frankie realizes that she has the power to plan something that would actually make a change. Thus the origination of “The Canned Beet Rebellion”. A generous alumna was the CEO of a large soft drink company. The school had recently changed to only products of that company and its conglomerates. There are no real fresh vegetables anywhere–only canned products and frozen items. When the CEO arrived at the school for a lecture, all students received buttons to wear saying things like “ketchup is not a vegetable”. When the caterer arrived, the main platter was a basset hound comprised entirely of vegetables. The CEO realized that she was being punked, but the result was real change in the school’s cafeteria–giving Frankie what she wanted.
Before leaving for Thanksgiving, Frankie sees a printout of the emails between her and her ex, Porter, in Matthew’s bag. She’s unsure as to what that means and focuses her off-time planning her final semester prank, one that is important to her as a Jewish student. The Bassets steal the Guppy (a statue at the school) leaving a plastic Basset in its place. The ransom note states that assemblies are to be held in the auditorium of the arts complex rather than in the Chapel as it is an affront to non-Christian students (and Christian students for its mixing of announcements in a religious venue). Once agreement was made, a series of clues leads some students and a janitor to the Guppy which is waiting in the abandoned swimming pool. As Frankie is debating the meaning of this with Matthew, she becomes enraged that he is treating her as though her ideas are cute and insignificant and she lies and tells him she has to study. Instead, she heads back to the abandoned gym to roll up the string she has left as a guide because she realizes that Matthew and the others are too dense to clean up after themselves. As she’s walking along, the string suddenly goes slack and she realizes that someone is on the other end. She runs out, catching a security guard who is heading into the tunnels.
When she gets back to the dorm, she hears some of the other girls discussing the headmaster’s speech about the “vandalism”. Since the pranks have progressed to stealing school property, it is now being taken seriously.
The next day, Frankie ends up going to the infirmary for the burn on her arm that she got when running out of the tunnels. Matthew comes to visit her, and she tells him that he underestimates her. He tells her that she’s adorable. He proceeds to tell her that the security guard found Alpha in the tunnels, and he refused to tell them why he was there. He was therefore charged with vandalism, theft, trespassing among other things. Alpha was the huge mastermind of all the pranks. He will be expelled from school. She asks Matthew if he knew about the pranks and he still told her that he had no idea, so she tells him how she burned her arm. She tells him how mad she was that he would never let her into his exclusionary club so she foiled him at his own game. He turns her into the headmaster.
She is called in where she writes the letter that was at the beginning of the book. She does not get expelled because she has never been in trouble before and her father of course is an active alumni. He also decides to only put her and Alpha on suspension. When she went home for winter break, she wasn’t Bunny any more.
Upon returning to school, she is treated simultaneously as a legend by some and a traitor by others. She goes to a counselor regularly by her mother and sister’s insistence. The counselor suggests she join field hockey. Frankie doesn’t really get into it because there isn’t even a boys’ field hockey and it feels inferior. Matthew moves on, and she finally realizes, so does she.
Verdict: 4 stars
I loved this book. It has a lot of depth for a YA book, and it really felt realistic of how being a teenager can be (as far as I can remember. It’s been a few years!! 🙂 ). Frankie is trying to figure out everything and is simultaneously concerned with popularity as well as the pressures of society. Even as an adult, that’s a very tough line to toe. Plus, pulling off awesome pranks is totally up my alley!