Jun 3, 2010

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks is fifteen and a sophomore at Alabaster Preparatory Academy. Alabaster is a boarding school in New England where the sons and daughters of privileged families are sent, both to be prepared for Ivy League colleges and to network with future world leaders and other Personalities of Importance. Frankie’s sophomore year begins well: Matthew Livingstone, a senior on whom Frankie has a crush, finally takes notice of her, and shortly thereafter the two begin to date. Matthew finds Frankie adorable and beautiful – and so do countless other people, who start to truly notice her now that her figure filled out over the summer. Frankie begins to regularly hang out with Matthew’s friends, the most popular group at school, and part of her is having the time of her life.

But then there’s the other part of her, the one that notices things. Yes, she’s beautiful, but she’s also a reader of Dorothy Parker and P.G. Wodehouse, a lover of language, a girl who knows her own mind, and a highly intelligent, artistic and politically aware human being. So she doesn’t take it kindly when she finds out that her boyfriend and his friends belong to the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society that has been behind some truly memorable pranks since the early days of Alabaster. Frankie finds a way to infiltrate the Hounds, and under her guidance they put together what she calls a series of “creative acts of civil disobedience”: they’re funny, they’re artistic, they’re thoughtful, and they’re politically engaged. But will people continue to find them brilliant once they find out who the real mastermind behind them is?

Back in 2008, when The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was all over the blogosphere, I decided to wait some time before I read it, because at that point my expectations were so high that it was doubtful that any book could possibly meet them. I don’t know if it was the passing of time that did it or not, but the fact is that this book managed to be even better than I thought it’d be. It’s a smart, it’s complex, and it’s an excellent introduction to feminism. I knew it’d be all this, but what surprised me was the fact that as rich as it is ideas-wise, it’s also a story with true emotional resonance. It left me feeling wistful and a little exhausted, but not at all in a bad way.

The tone of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is far less playful than I thought it’d be. It’s not that the book lacks humour, and it’s not that I’d imagined it’d be cheery. But I was amazed that Frankie’s story was so realistically painful. This is a story that takes the emotional consequences of being different, of thinking critically, of expecting more of the world and of swimming against the tide absolutely seriously. The ending, though not surprising, made my heart break for Frankie. I was impressed with how accurately the novel gets across the significance of what Frankie had lost. Just because she can’t pretend to be what she’s not so that she fits in, it doesn’t mean she won’t miss her friends, or that hers won’t be a lonely path. The fact that she’s different doesn’t mean she isn’t human and doesn’t crave acceptance and understanding. It’s not at all silly to wish for a different world, and yet to truly care about the people who contribute to making it what it is, and to feel their rejection as a serious blow.

As I was reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I kept having imaginary debates with all the things I’d read about it over the years. I thought it’d make sense to mention some of them here – I just hope nobody will take this personally, because I certainly don’t mean it personally. I honestly no longer remember which reviews I read or who said what about it, and what I mean is not to argue but to address things that are important to me. Anyway, one of the things I remember repeatedly seeing is the question, “Why does Frankie even care if there’s a boys’ club? Why can’t she just start her own girls’ club?”

One of the things I loved the most about Frankie was her complete refusal to accept that gender needs to be the one variable around which the world revolves. She doesn’t believe that gender defines people’s interests or personalities, and therefore she would never accept that it’s in any way justifiable to exclude people from certain activities based on which gender they belong to. People often respond to this by pointing out that liking “feminine” or “masculine” things isn’t better or worse; it’s just different – and though it’s arguable that these categories aren’t generally constructed as better or worse, I’m going to ignore that for now because that isn’t really the point.

The point is that the naturalisation of what are really arbitrary social categories leads to power imbalances, to social inequalities, to games and manipulations, to general misery, and to a no-end of trouble. The world doesn’t need to be structured around the concepts of male and female. We don’t need to be put into boxes, or to think of activities (or professions, or leadership positions, or even colours and items of clothing) as “girly” or “manly”. But we do it anyway because we’re used to doing it, and because we’re used to doing it we imagine that this is simply How Things Are. Frankie has the ability to imagine a different world, and because she imagines it she will never accept having a door closed on her merely because she’s a girl.

Another thing I seem to remember is people getting angry at Frankie for looking down on her roommate Trish for spending her summer indoors making crumbles – this when feminism is supposedly all about choices. And it is – but choices don’t take place in a vacuum. I fully believe that making crumbles (which I happen to enjoy, by the way) is as valid a way for a girl to spend her time as any other. But the problem is that Frankie suspects that her friend’s choice is the direct result of her rejection of activities she has mentally classified as “manly.” And this rejection has to do with the fact that she was made to feel uncomfortable when she took part in said activities. She was subtly made to feel that she didn’t belong with “the guys”, and so she retreated to a context where she felt validated and safe.

To take it to another level, it’s one thing for a girl to choose to be an English teacher rather than a computer engineer because she genuinely likes teaching and literature better than computers. It’s quite another for her to make that same choice because although she loves computers, all her life people around her have acted on the unspoken assumption that computer engineers are normally men; that therefore it would be odd of her to transgress; and that she would most likely not be welcome or successful if she were to pick computer engineering as her profession. The considerable number of women who yearly drop out of traditionally male fields of study have decided to at least test the assumption, but most likely they have bumped into invisible barriers - and therefore “decided” that computer engineering or whatever wasn’t for them after all. Our choices are conditioned by the world we live in, and we shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it truly is to swim against the tide. As Frankie says, the world is full of rules nobody breaks because we don’t realise that they aren’t really rules at all.

Why were there no books like this around when I was fifteen? A book like The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks would have helped me immensely – it would have enabled me detect the pattern and to connect the dots much sooner than I did; and therefore, to quote the narrator, it would have helped me stop feeling crazy because the whole world kept telling me I wasn’t supposed to want the things I wanted—which include truly equal opportunities as well as a world in which my gender is not the first defining characteristic people think of when trying to make sense of (or explain away) who I am. But for the sake of all the fifteen-year-olds in the world (and not just), I’m SO glad this book exists now. It’s accessible and yet intelligent; it’s direct rather than subtle, but that’s okay because it completely works. It’s unapologetic and complex; it’s funny and heartbreaking, and it’s an absolute pleasure to read. And as I said, it’s also realistically painful: it doesn’t make light of the price that people who burst through invisible doors have to pay, but it makes you consider that it might be worth it all the same.

Favourite bits:
The problem was that to them—to Uncle Ben and her mother, and maybe even to Uncle Paul—Frankie was Bunny Rabbit.
Not a person with intelligence, a sense of direction, and the ability to use a cell phone. Not a person who could solve a problem.
Not even a person who could walk fifteen blocks all by herself without getting run over by a car.
To them, she was Bunny Rabbit.
Innocent.
In need of protection.
Inconsequential.

“And what do you mean when you say ‘take advantage,’ anyway? Like you’re assuming guys want something girls don’t want? Maybe we want it, too. Maybe Matthew should worry about me taking advantage of him.”
“Don’t jump all over me. I was trying to look out for you.”
“You think that saying ‘be careful’ is going to make the difference between Matthew getting down my pants or not?” Frankie knew she was being harsh, but she was angry. “Like I’m going to be in the middle of making out with him and think, ‘Oh, wait, Porter reminded me that I might be getting taken advantage of right now, wow, what a big help, I think I’ll go home?”
I LOVE YOU, Frankie.
Matthew had called her harmless. Harmless. And being with him made Frankie feel squashed into a box—a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); a box for young and pretty girls who were not as bright or powerful as their boyfriends. A box for people who were not forces to be reckoned with.
They read it too: Andrea’s Book Nook, Trish’s Reading Nook, Rebecca Reads, The Bluestocking Society, Sophisticated Dorkiness, BibilioAddict, BiblioFile, Fyrefly’s Book Blog, Sassymonkey Reads, Stuff as Dreams are Made On, Steph & Tony Investigate, Book Nut, Library Queue, Becky’s Book Reviews, Worducopia, Presenting Lenore

(I’m sure I missed several – if yours is one of them, please let me know and I’ll be glad to add it.)




On a side note: A group of fellow European bloggers and I were chatting on Twitter yesterday, and we thought it would be fun to have a large gathering/convention over here, somewhat along the lines of the one that took place in the US last week. As these things take time to organise, we were thinking of the summer of 2011, and as for where, the UK seemed to us the best choice – not only because there are so many bloggers there to begin with, but also because it’s easy and affordable for the rest of us to fly in. There were also mentions of having it around either the London Book Fair or the Hay-on-Wye festival, and thus kill two birds with one stone.

The only problem is that none of us having this chat have the time, organisation skills and availability to put together something like this - though we’d be more than willing to help if someone else took the reins. Please visit Iris’ and Stu’s blogs for more details, and let us know if this is something you’d be interested in either attending or helping with.

ETA: We created a Google Group so that we could have a centralised place to discuss things. Those who are interested in helping organise the con are welcome to join.

48 comments:

Beth F said...

Okay, you sold me. I remember the hype and felt the same way you did. I thought I would like the book, but didn't want to read it and be disappointed. Unlike you, however, I totally forgot about the book. So I'm happy you didn't, that you read it, and that it was better than expected. I need to track this down.

I'm with you on your thoughts about gender, career choice, and all the rest. I'm glad to know that are intelligent feminist books still being written -- I often despair that women under the age of 45 think that feminism is dead, or should be.

Nymeth said...

Beth, though I'm a younger woman myself I completely share your dismay about the dismissal of feminism as something that is over and done with. Thank goodness for books like this. I think that the problem is that many teen girls or young women experience things in their lives that frustrate them and make them feel small but never quite realise that *that* is exactly the kind of thing feminism concerns itself with. I know that was the case with me as a teen. But books like this identify the pattern and give it a name - which might not sound like much, but is actually incredibly useful when you're struggling with something.

Melody said...

Great review, Ana! I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

Yes, this book has received lots of attention back then, and I too decided to wait some time before reading it, but I suppose I've waited too long because till now I still haven't got to it. :P

Guess I need to put this book back onto my wishlist again, hehe.

Jenny said...

I definitely had the impression that this was a very lighthearted, kind of silly book, which is why I haven't read it yet despite its beautiful cover. But gender issues and boarding school AND secret societies with clever pranks? Must have.

Tricia said...

I couldn't agree more. Where WERE books like this when I was a teen? I thought this book was fabulous. Thanks for the link love. :)

Ms. Yingling said...

This one was great-- my daughter asked for a copy for her birthday. I liked that the feminist message was delivered with humor. We DO need more books like this-- it's too easy to forget that when I was in high school, girls were NOT ALLOWED to run cross country until 1982. Definitely pick up Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX if you have an interest in feminism.

Amy said...

I haven't seen a lot of posts on this, but probably because I wasn't around the blogosphere during the time that you mention it was hot. It sounds like a truly fascinating read. I especially love how you point out that our choices aren't often true 'what would I love to do' choices but that they are, rather, based on so many factors that are influenced by the world around us.

Love it!

Oh, and LOVE the European / UK blogger event idea :)

Trisha said...

I have to say - if you guys do a UK event, I might have to crash the party even though I'm from the US. :)

As to the book, it sounds tremendous. I think your discussion of the difference between choosing an activity/profession and being manipulated to choose one is spot on. Our choices are influenced so heavily by the ideology of gender that at times it can be difficult to determine if a woman truly made the choice or if the world narrowed her choices for her.

the Ape said...

You continentals should definitely have a gathering of some kind. The folks at the US one all had a great time.

Jodie said...

You just totally sold the book to me, because secret societies sound like a fantastic idea but secret societies and gender commentary sound like a knock out.

S. Krishna said...

I didn't know much about this book before your review, but wow now I REALLY REALLY want to read it. Thanks for the great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds like a book I could really relate to, even though I, as you, love crumbles!

Molly said...

I was not a part of the blogosphere two years ago, so I missed the original "hooplah" surrounding this book.

I am so glad that you waited and reviewed it now, because it sounds like a book that I would LOVE.

Thank you!

Amanda said...

I'd seen so many bad reviews of this that I crossed it off my list! Maybe I ought to put it back on!

Re: European Blogger Meetup - that would be so much fun! I'm not sure I can do it in the summer, but I'll try my best to get there, assuming someone can organize it.

Steph said...

Since I don't read tons of YA, that might have influenced my feelings about this book somewhat. I thought that it was probably very empowering for teen girls, but I thought that it's notions of feminism were perhaps overly simplistic, and I didn't necessarily think Frankie was the most awesome heroine ever. That said, I think she was pretty great for a teen, and certainly I think it would be far more fantastic if girls were idolizing Frankie rather than Bella, but then again, isn't that always the way?

Josette said...

Was smitten by your review! Guess this will be a great book for budding feminists. :) The book's also on my wishlist too.

Nymeth said...

Melody: That happens to me all the time - I'm dying to read a book for a while, and them time passes and I completely forget about it. Good thing bloggers exist to remind us ;)

Jenny: It isn't in the least! And I can see you enjoying it a lot.

Tricia: You're most welcome! And I know - they'd have done me a world of good.

Mrs Yingling: Thank you so much for the recommendation! I'll definitely check it out. 1982 is only shortly before I was born...scary to think about.

Amy, you will LOVE this book! I have no doubt.

Trisha: Party crashers will be most welcome :D And it can be difficult, can't it? It's also difficult sometimes to have these conversations without making the women who made those "conventional" choices get defensive because they feel like they're being told they were manipulated. Such a tricky subject.

the Ape: It sounds like they did! I hope we can pull it off over here.

Jodie: You will love this!

S. Krishna, you're most welcome! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Jill: Ha - I think you would, crumbles aside ;)

Molly: You're welcome! I hope you do love it!

Amanda: I think I missed all those bad reviews! As for the con, nothing's been settled on the date yet, but hopefully if we plan far ahead enough people will be able to come! As I was telling Trisha, party-crashers from the US are most welcome ;)

Steph: I thought Frankie was far from perfect - she bordered on the obsessive, for example - but that didn't make me like her less, necessarily. I also thought it was interesting that the narrator actually commented on her less than appealing traits and on their cost. I wish I'd mentioned the narrator's asides on my review! I thought that worked so well. Anyway, I often notice that other readers consider YA books that I thought were extremely smart and complex simplistic - which gives me pause, because I can't even begin to see how they're uncomplicated, let alone simplistic. This has happened with this, Speak by Laura Halse Anderson, Tender Morsels, etc. It's not that they tell me things about life I don't already know necessarily, but I don't feel that they cheat life out of its complexity in the least. This happens so often and the discrepancy is so big that it makes me wonder if it's just that I'm not any smarter or more mature than the intended YA audience ;) I know you don't mean to imply that I'm stupid or anything, Steph; I'm just thinking out loud about the possible reasons why I often feel that I've read a different book than other reviewers. For me, a book that dealt with gender simplistically would be one that said that men are beasts while women are saints. Or, I don't know, that women are scheming and manipulative by nature and use men's animal lusts to put them at their mercy. I've seen this in some adult fiction, actually, and it's not a pretty picture :S But in the case of Frankie and these other YA books, I honestly believe that they depict an extremely complicated social system where power, ideology and hidden assumptions play a much larger role than any individual's intentions or than simplistic concepts such as "goodness" or "badness". And this is why I'd love to hear more about why you thought it was so simplistic.

Josette: Yes, absolutely! And even for not so budding ones.

Nymeth said...

Eek, that was a long comment. Sorry Steph!

Zibilee said...

I have also read a lot of reviews on this book, but have to admit that none of them have made me want to read this book, until yours. Your review makes it sound really complex and interesting, and I think it might make a perfect summer read that I can pass to my daughter when I am done. Great thoughts on this one. I am very intrigued.

Janeen said...

I read this a while ago, but I thought Frankie should have started her own co-ed club, which could have executed her brilliant pranks, wowing those she wanted to impress, and putting the lame boys' club to shame. And she could have parlayed members of her new club into a horde of minions once she takes her inevitable position as an incredibly successful criminal mastermind.

Mumsy said...

Sometimes I wonder if the reason why so many women reject "feminism" (the word) while believing in much that feminism stands for, is that the feminist movement seemed to forget about or outright dismiss many of the roles that women have traditionally fulfilled. I am thinking specifically of raising children: in the US, at least, there has been precious little support for women who need good daycare in order to keep working, and no feminist support whatsoever for women who choose to stay home with their children; on the contrary, in fact. There is a wonderful scene which was cut from the animated movie "The Incredibles" wherein the superhero mom goes to a barbecue and is ignored or insulted when she tells people that she is a full-time mother. I hate to admit it, but that has happened to me more often than I like to remember.

Does that make me less of a supporter of feminism, less likely to call myself feminist? Hell no. Just saying: feminism has its blind spots, too.

Mumsy said...

...oh, and, wonderful review! I have to get this book.

Stephanie said...

Based on your thoughtful description, I expect I'll completely fall in love with this character and this novel. :-)

NatalieSap said...

Thanks for reminding me that I need to go buy this book. I love love loved it the first time, but I think it deserves another reading. Excellent review!

valentina said...

interesting discussion there. I've wanted to read this for ever, but since it's not published here I would have to go and order it online at some point!
Although I agree with you about that gender shouldn't define people's interests and it shouldn't become a measure of judgment, I'm still not 100% sure about the concept of a socially constructed idea of masculine and feminine. I know this is the marxist view on it, that it's society that creates this differences, but I like to think of feminine and masculine as two abstract spheres which can be contained in people's personalities, regardless of gender, in different percentages. OK, I might be going way off topic there. Might be a discussion for another post, but which doesn't change the fact that gender equality should be aimed at politically and socially because it's simply a matter of common sense.
I should go back and read more about that difference theory and other feminist views, and come back to you!

valentina said...

oh and btw, a book blogger con at Hay-on-Wye would be magical!

Bina said...

I still haven´t read this book because like you I thought I´d expect too much because of the hype. But this is one gushing review so I think I can´t have too high expectations :)

I hope that lots of 15 year olds read this one and not just Twilight!

Oh, and a EU/UK meet-up would be amazing, I loved Hay-on-Wye (though I´d probably have to travel without clothes and just take a suitcase for the books!). I just have no idea where I´ll be at in my studies that time next year.

Nymeth said...

Zibilee: I'm sure it will give you and your daughter a lot to talk about!

Janeen: I see your point, and I definitely like the idea of a co-ed club better than a gender-based one. But I think that the problem is that Frankie felt that as long as a boy's club existed, and especially as long as the *mentality* that led to the creation of a boy's club remained unchallenged, nobody would take her co-ed one seriously at all. It would always remain second-rate in the eyes of those she wanted to impress, unless she proved beyond doubt that she could beat them at their own game. It's kind of like Matthew's attitude towards the pranks once he finds out that Frankie orchestrated them. In that scene in the infirmary, he goes from thinking they're brilliant to calling them twisted and sick. As long as the Hounds knew the pranks were coming from a "lesser" club that allowed girls in, they would refuse to take them seriously, regardless of how clever they actually were. It's an amazing thing, but I notice that people will go to great lengths to go on believing what they have always believed. Confirmation bias is a powerful thing, and it's extraordinary difficult to make people see things they don't want to see. It kind of reminds me of the story of James Tiptree Jr, the female hard sci-fi writer who wrote under a male pen name. Once her gender was revealed, there were people who dismissed her and said they had "always known" there was something "girly" about her writing. By then she'd already made a name for herself, and not everybody had the nerve to retract their previous praise. But it's not unreasonable to assume that some of these people would have dismissed her books as "girly" from the very beginning if she had published them under her real name.

Mumsy: I completely agree about blind spots, and about the dismissal of traditional roles. In this particular scene, Frankie refrains from telling her friend anything condescending (though she does think it), and based on previous conversations they had she has good reasons to suspect that her choice to stay home and bake was made under certain constraints. But I wouldn't want to ever assume that of every woman who performs a traditionally feminine activity or role. That's just yet another way of telling women how they ought to think or what they ought to be; of making us feel devalued, dismissed and not good enough unless we fit into a very specific mould.

Stephanie: Frankie isn't always likeable, or at least not traditionally so, but she's extremely interesting nonetheless.

NatalieSap: Thank you! I can see myself returning to it in a few years too.

Valentina: I'm not a Marxist (and I'm honestly a bit confused that you brought Marxism into it! What does it have to do with this?), but I honestly believe that gender essentialism is both wrong (as in factually incorrect) and harmful. I've had this conversation countless times before with fellow feminists, and I know there's a considerable divide within the movement itself about this issue. As long as people do fight for social and political equality, I'm not about to get all high and mighty and call anyone a bad feminist, of course - but to me, the fact that personality traits are not inherent to any gender is every bit as commonsensical as the fact that equality is absolutely fair. All around me I see evidence that supports this, though of course I know that there are many, many people who argue that there's evidence to the contrary. All I can say is that I completely respect you and your position, but I couldn't disagree more vehemently.

Bina: I hope so too! Hopefully this will be a bit of an antidote to Twilight :P And ha - Hay-on-Wye would be incredibly dangerous for our luggage allowances, wouldn't it? Though I think people are learning towards London at the moment, as access and accommodation would be easier.

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

I'm so glad you liked this book. I loved it. I avoided the hype so it surprised me by its awesomeness.

I also think you just gave the best description of the feminism as choice theory. I always struggle explaining and understanding the concept.

valentina said...

Oh no I never meant to imply you were a marxist, not sure why I brought it up, probably cause I've had this kind of conversation with marxist friends who would argue those views and your arguments sounded very close to theirs, so in my head I made the connection.
I wish I were so strongly as you were about this, I still have to make my own mind up. Those thoughts were just what I instinctively had, but I can see your point and I'm torn between the two views. I probably should read more feminist theories from all sides and then decide what makes more sense to me.

valentina said...

Ok I reread the second half and it doesn't make sense, I meant "I wish I were so strongly convinced about this as you are...

Nymeth said...

Michelle: Thank you! It's a really difficult thing to talk about, I find, because the last thing I'd ever want is for women who didn't make a certain kind of choice feel like they're being told they could only have been manipulated into sticking to traditional roles. On the other hand, I also really don't want the phrase "it's a choice!" to be used to put a stop to any sort of questioning.

Valentina: Well, not being completely sure isn't always a bad thing! I hope I didn't sound like I was dismissing essentialism off the bat. I did read quite a bit about it when I was majoring in psychology (Carol Gilligan, etc.), but it thoroughly failed to convinced me. I also came across it a lot when doing my BA in English, as there's a LOT of talk of "feminine aesthetics" in literature and etc. And again, I just wasn't sold - I wanted to tell all those academics about James Tiptree Junior and make them shut up about how women "write differently". But of course, they'd probably tell me that sci-fi doesn't count. When I found people like Judith Butler, I felt they were saying everything I always wanted to say but couldn't quite articulate. Here's an article that explains my objections to essentialism much better than I have. Not trying to convince you or anything; I just enjoy these debates :P

Iliana said...

Oh man, I want to know when your meet up will be and if the stars align, maybe I'll have to pass by on my way to my yearly visit to Germany! :)

Great review of this book, Nymeth. I didn't really know what it was about actually but you make me want to pick it up definitely. I like a smart, feisty heroine.

softdrink said...

I loved Frankie, too. While I didn't always agree with her actions, I liked that she was a kick-ass heroine.

Jenners said...

Well, I for one am glad you decided to wait on reading this so I could come now and read your review and learn about this book (which I have never heard of) and add it to my wishlist!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I have had this on my shelf FOREVER and I think you have finally convinced me to kick it up on a notch on my list. THANK YOU! I will absolutely read it this summer. I can't wait. Thanks for your glowing and supremely intelligent review.

valentina said...

After reading that article I'm pretty sure I'm not an essentialist, or at least not in the way it's been described. What I meant is that there are certain traits in human beings which can be polarised in masculine and feminine, but these terms are just names, doesn't mean that they must belong to their respect genders. There probably should be different terms! I agree with the article's point that there's more differences between a group of women or a group of men than there is between the two sexes. Human beings are so diverse and that's their beauty. I'm probably more fascinated by this diversity than by feminist theories. I'm fascinated by the androginous and the transgender, but I can see, especially in the gay community, that some boys lean more towards a "feminine" side, while some girls develop a more "masculine" behaviour. Now, I do believe this happens naturally and it's not culturally induced. It's just who they are. It's not a stereotype. And I also believe that if society accepted that this masculine and feminine traits are naturally interchangeable and "mixable" we would live our lives much more freely. Ok I'll shut up now, cause it's not even about feminism anymore!

Kathleen said...

I have never heard of this book so I feel hopelessly out of the loop. I would have loved to have read it when I was a teenage girl being raised by a June Cleaver kind of mom when I was a rebel with all kinds of ideas about what I wanted to do and none of them included (at that time) being a wife or mother!

bermudaonion said...

I added this to my wish list when it was all over the blogosphere and then kind of forgot about it. I'm glad to see it exceeded your expectations!

I hope someone's able to organize a European convention of book bloggers.

Gricel said...

That sounds like a wonderful read! I remember reading some reviews when it first came out, but I never really understood what it was supposed to be about based on the reviews so I just passed up on it. Definitely something I'll look into.

Nymeth said...

Iliana: That would be so great if you could come too! No decisions were made about the date yet, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Jill, I thought the same. Sometimes I wanted to yell, "Argh, no, you're going to get seriously HURT, Frankie!" But at the same time, I understood why she did what she did.

Jenners: I'm glad to have brought it to your attention, and I hope you like it as much as I did!

Heather: You're most welcome! I can't wait to hear what you think :) And thank you for the kind words!

valentina: I think it turns out we don't actually disagree - we were just using the same words differently. I completely agree that there *should* be different terms, and I feel that if we keep calling those traits "masculine" and "feminine" even as we acknowledge they aren't about gender, we're perpetuating stereotypes whether we want to or not, you know? I'm fascinated by trangenderism too, and one of the things I like about feminism is exactly that it questions the gender binary.

Kathleen: Ha - my teenage years weren't too different. Where was this book then?

Kathy: I hope so too! It would be so much fun.

Gricel, I hope you enjoy it! I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Aarti said...

I think your reaction to this book and its main character is VERY similar to my reaction to Excellent Women and Mildred. I liked the book, but expected it to be different. I liked Mildred, but was exhausted by her. After reading this, I ABSOLUTELY think you should read Excellent Women. And then we can have a heated exchange via email about its merits/demerits.

coffeestainedpages said...

Ahaha I love the second favourite quote you posted. It made me laugh out loud.
I had heard of this one before but I had never really read anything about it that made me interested enough to pick it up. I'd really like to read it after looking over your post. Reading your thoughts about feminism being about choice but choices not happening in a vaccum was really interesting, they really ring true to me.

chasingbawa said...

I remember reading about this as well. I'm not sure I'm in the mood for reading something set in a school at the moment, but I've made a mental note to check it out one day (i.e. it's gone on my wishlist!)

Nymeth said...

Aarti: I promise I WILL read it!

Dominique: Isn't the quote awesome? :D And I'm glad you feel the same way as I do about feminism, choice, etc.

Sakura: I'm actually someone who's ALWAYS in the mood for boarding school/campus stories. Not sure why, but I tend to love them :P Anyway, I hope you enjoy this when you get to it!

readingandrooibos said...

I picked this book up from the library shortly after it was published, but put it down because I struggled with the tone you'd identified in your review. Your review has totally made me reevaluate my decision not to continue with the book. Thank you so much for your insightful commentary! There's no way I can let this one slip by me when it offers so many avenues for the discussion of gender inequality and feminism.

Nymeth said...

Laura, I'm glad to have convinced you to give it another chance! I can't wait to hear what you make of it.

Clover said...

YAY! I'm so glad to read that you liked it even after the expectations left you .. I have this on my pile waiting for me. Might have to bump it up a few..

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for commenting - I do my best to reply to comments, but life conspires against it more and more often these days. But even when I don't get around to replying, every comment is read and very much appreciated.

To non-blogger users: I've been told that OpenID comments have been giving people errors most of the time, for which I really, really apologise. But you could always use the name/URL option instead, which seems to work just fine.

Thank you for reading!