Books are an amazing source of life lessons and love advice, so why don’t we learn from them? Esmée will recount to you what she has learned and what you should keep in mind while finding your way through the obstacle course that is life.
After reading We Were Liars I didn’t really get the E. Lockhart hype, but now that I’ve read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I totally do. Not only is the title amazing, Frankie is also one of the best female protagonists in YA today. I know that I’m way late to the party – this book came out in 2008 – but I’m going to make a new rule that says it’s never too late to be inspired by Frankie.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is about Frankie, a 15 year old girl going to a prestigious boarding school called Alabaster. This is a school for the rich children of highly influential people, and it is assumed that the boys growing up there will be leading the country one way or another. The girls who are there will get a great education and can grow up to do amazing things, but what is really expected of them is to become the great woman behind the man. They should be helpful, inspirational; the next first lady, definitely not the next president. The young boys at Alabaster can’t even imagine that a girl will have thoughts of power and ambition. Sure, girls like Frankie can be clever, but above all they’re pretty and fun to be around. Too pretty to worry about things or to cause any trouble.
Well, they are SO wrong. During the book, Frankie proves that girls should not be underestimated just because they look good. There is a secret society at Alabaster called the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Frankie’s father belonged to this group and so does her very popular boyfriend Matthew. Frankie finds out about the secret society when she follows Matthew one day, because she knows he’s hiding something from her. When she sees what a bad state the Loyal Order is in (their idea of a good Halloween prank is truly pitiful) she steps in. In secret, of course.
Frankie runs The Loyal Order for a while with great success. Not everything goes off without a hitch and when people find out that she took over a secret society and pretended to be their leader, they call her crazy, psycho and even suggest that she should see a psychologist. All because she wanted to be in control. Now, it’s easy to write the book off as cute, just because it is a YA story. You could also call it feminist, because it shows how the world of power is still such a boy’s club and if you want in as a woman you’re out of luck. But there is a passage in the start of the book that to me shows what we could learn from Frankie. She goes to a beach party, organized by Matthew. It’s a boring party, it’s cold and there isn’t enough to drink. The boys are busy being boys and try to act cool, while the girls are either trying to be one of the boys or are content with just being girls and doing girly things. Frankie wants none of that. She’s not trying to be one of the boys and be accepted by them and she’s also not content with just being a girl and to be stuck in that role. Both those options are fine if you want them, but Frankie doesn’t want them. What Frankie wants is to be the one in charge.
The Disreputable History is a book about attaining power and about how you shouldn’t let rules stop you. Now, before all of my readers turn into power-hungry dictators, let’s all take a deep breath and continue reading. Frankie wants to have this power but the institution (Alabaster, The Loyal Order, life in general) doesn’t let her have it. This is because she’s a girl and they’re not supposed to be in charge. However, Frankie doesn’t care about the reasons why she can’t be in charge. She’s not an agent for social change – although her Canned Beet Rebellion is hilarious – instead, she shows that there is nothing stopping you to get what you want. She throws social constructions and expectations out of the window and even has fun while doing it. Frankie is an example for anyone being told they can’t be, have or do something. She shows you that you can be, do or have whatever you like and that if doors are being closed in your face, you break them down and let yourself in. Frankie makes up her own rules, even her own words, and doesn’t care that everyone tells her she’s doing something that is considered wrong. Don’t let people tell you what your life is supposed to be like. Break the mold and be who you want to be.
From here it is easy to take this advice and twist it into an excuse for not caring about people and simply doing what you want. This is where the taking a breath comes into play again. Frankie uses her hunger for power to be noticed, to expose a double standard and to speak up about things she doesn’t like. But when she gets someone else into trouble, she steps in. She takes the blame, because it was hers to take and stands up for what she believes in. So if you get that power you’ve been craving, please take another note from Frankie’s Disreputable History and use it for good.
To really finish off this week’s advice, I’m giving out homework. Go read The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks and make sure every teenager gets a copy. Then when you are done reading, go start a secret society. I’ve always wanted to be in one when I was younger and with Frankie as your role model, it’s never too late to make this happen.