2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

By E. Lockhart

Current & Digital Publisher: Hyperion

Reading Level: Ages 18 & Up

Daniel Ehrenhaft writes:

I’d heard a lot of buzz about this novel before it was published; the YA community in New York was good that way even before Twitter and Facebook. As a fan of Emily’s previous books and a sucker for any YA set at boarding school, I knew I was in for a good read. But I didn’t anticipate the kind of read you’re always chasing as a fiction junkie, the kind that becomes hallowed and makes you think about writing itself in a different way. To this day, I suffer and savor the same emotional stages whenever I pick it up. I’ll try to distance myself from the laying-bare-of-my-soul with the second person present tense.

Envy: You should be able to create a character as fully realized as Frankie Landau-Banks. But how?  How do you create someone as sharp, insouciant, vulnerable, strong, lovable, loved, flawed, confused…? How do you make someone come alive forever beyond a string of contradictory adjectives?

Epiphany: The wordplay Frankie employs by removing key prefixes—that is pure genius.  Seriously, you can probably think of some novel that used something like that before…? No, you can’t. It’s unique. Even more miraculous, it serves Frankie perfectly.  It’s unique to a unique character.

Denial: Emily uses Bentham’s Panopticon as a metaphor for boarding school, and you attempted the same in a novel published three years earlier! (Emily didn’t read your novel and still hasn’t, probably a good thing.) Worse, her use of the Panopticon is graceful and perfect and wildly illuminating. But really, Frankie owns it, not Emily. You must have been hungry or tired when writing your own book.

Acceptance: So this is how a classic novel set at boarding school reads. This is the book that sets the bar for this wonderful and rarified sub-genre, the kind you’ll share with your toddler a dozen years from now and that you’ll insist your grandchildren read. Is it wrong that you like it better than A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye? No. It isn’t. You’re okay with this judgment, just as Frankie is okay with tossing out generations’ worth of accepted hooey at the Alabaster Preparatory Academy.

Rapture: Now that you don’t suffer (much) over loving this book, you can draw comparisons. It’s like What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell; there isn’t a wasted word. It’s also like the writing of some of your favorite non-YA authors—Jennifer Egan and Kurt Vonnegut and Toni Morrison—you must parage it for its honesty. (You know, the opposite of “disparage.” To praise.) It’s like any treasured novel. You come back to it again and again.

Daniel Ehrenhaft is a bestselling author of books for teens, among them The Wessex Papers, winner of the 2003 Edgar Award, and most recently Americapedia (2011), which The New York Times has called "Jon Stewart's America for the YA set." As an editor, he helped to create the Gossip Girl and Peaches series. He is now Editorial Director of Soho Teen. www.danielehrenhaft.com

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YPL Finalists That Year:

  • Laurie Halse Anderson for Chains
  • Kathi Appelt for The Underneath
  • E. Lockhart for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
  • Tim Tharp for The Spectacular Now

YPL Winner That Year: Judy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied

Judges That Year: Holly Black, Daniel Handler, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt

The Year in Literature: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz won the Newbery Medal. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean won the Printz Award.

More Information: E. Lockhart never writes anything by hand, and when she is typing on the computer she says she often keeps her eyes closed.

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