Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds

When someone recommended E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks to me, it was described as "Harriet the Spy meets Prep." I still hold onto my childhood obsession with Harriet the Spy, so I said, "Count me in for this one!"

Meet Frankie – a sharp-witted, buxomly 15-year-old who would have been classified as a mildly geeky "Bunny Rabbit" just one year ago. Sophomore year at Alabaster prep school is determinedly different than Frankie's freshman year. She is no longer "Zada's little sister" and she's landed a senior boyfriend – Matthew Livingston, the most popular guy in school. But Frankie is determined to be viewed as more than just arm candy to the senior crowd. She wants their respect as an equal, and gosh darn it, she is going to get it!

Now, Matthew turns out to be one of the Kings of the all-male Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, a secret organization that has been around Alabaster since the 1950s and one of which Frankie knows bits and pieces (thanks to her Basset Hound-member father). Unfortunately for the present day Basset Hounds, Frankie knows more about the organization than its members, and she immediately determines this as her opportunity to get "in." Determined to not be underestimated, Frankie begins anonymously plotting a series of practical jokes that will return the Basset Hounds to their former pranking glory.

Frankie is such an enjoyable character to read.  She's clever, intelligent, and strong-willed, yet she still possesses those girly qualities that worry about fitting in and having a boyfriend. She has her quirks, like using "imaginary neglected positives" - words that have a negative prefix (like un- or dis-) and a root that is not really a word, such as (im)petuous, (dis)turbed, and (in)ept. And one of my favorite conversations in the novel is a discussion on why tomato is the best fruit because it has versatility. At times, Frankie may seem like an overbearing girlfriend, but on the whole, the novel ends painting Frankie as a YA heroine (albeit, the message is blatantly stated on the last page). I think these contradictions just makes her a multi-dimensional character.

I generally find prep school novels enjoyable, because they place raging teenage emotions in an adult, college-like world. Thus, drama will always ensue. This book is most definitely a light and entertaining read that will have you hooked for the couple of hours it takes you to finish.

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