ooh... secret societies and gender politics...
If you're female and between the ages of about 12 and 25, I cannot think of a single reason why you shouldn't read this book. It's fantastic. Both highly political and incredibly funny - it's the book I wish I'd been given to see me through being a teenager and to prepare me for later life. And no, I never went to an elite prep school with a bunch of stuffy trainee 'old boys' and a 60 year old all-male secret society... but I, like every girl I know, could have done with the reassurance that being your own person is more important than fitting the mold and that women are worth more than just a chest measurement. The story spoke to me on many levels and addressed issues that I have written articles on and feel very strongly about.
On the surface, it's a high school tale of cliques, first loves and mischief - quite like the author's The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver and the other Ruby Oliver books. I enjoyed reading about Ruby and frequently related to her but, for me, Frankie Landau-Banks was all the more kick-ass, funny and just so memorable. She's a 5-star heroine and the perfect partner in crime... if only she were real.
The writing in this novel was flawless with some hilarious dialogue between the characters, particularly regarding some of Frankie's ridiculous neglected positives, it's such a silly idea that shouldn't be so funny but I have no idea how many times I must have laughed. Little scenes like this are what made the book for me:
"They're not puppets, they're muppets," said Frankie. "I have a serious and justified love for Kermit that I will parage to the end."
"Parage. The neglected postive of disparage."
"You mean defend. You will defend Kermit to the end."
"Parage. I will parage him. And Animal, too. I love Animal. I used to watch that show on DVD all the time when I was little."
Trish changed the subject. "We should do facials and paint our toenails Friday before they pick us up. What do you say, blow through dinner and come back here for girlie stuff?"
Frankie said, "You're on. When we're finished, we'll be absolutely sheveled."
"You'll be sheveled," said Trish. "I'm a normal person."
I mean, come on, that's funny. And she's so effin' stubborn it's great. I just loved Frankie and loved the plot and loved the book. I took notes on the damn thing. No, really, there are parts of this book that you just have to note down. By 'you', of course, I actually mean me.
I also want to point out for all you cynical people who "bah humbug" at novels set in high schools following a girl through her relationships and pranky misdeeds... this really is a great political statement. But it's in the dialogue and Frankie's awesomeness that it's revealed, sometimes subtle and sometimes not. My favourite thing about it is how the school represents today's society as a whole and the truths about the equality myth. Because, sadly, even though men and women are supposed to have the same opportunities and they are now allowed into the same professions, they sit at the same tables and they even become friends, beneath it all there is still an inner circle - rather like a secret society - that continues to slam the door in a woman's face. But better than this metaphor is the message behind it: that if you put your mind to it, you don't have to accept the way things are. That you have the ability to change the way of the world. Or the way of a prep school. Like Frankie does.