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Mandafofanda Reads Lots

The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no?

And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn't that make life a story?

- Yann Martel, Life of Pi

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart Frankie Landau-Banks is quite literally the book equivalent of Veronica Mars. And she's awesome. And also a bit scary.

This is the book that I think every girl should read, even though many may not have the patience for it. The writing is a bit report-like and clinical, though you do get a thorough analysis of Frankie's thoughts in every situation. There is some romance, though it's not really shown or described in a way to make you feel it. This is a book that brings up good insights into struggles with being female in a patriarchal environment, how much of yourself you should compromise in a relationship, and feeling underestimated. Is Frankie right in her way of solving things? Not always, and she can be a little extreme in her drive to prove herself. But I can't help but admire her for her values and her tenaciousness.

I recommended this book to my 19-year-old younger sister who just finished her freshman year in college in a male-dominated program, and asked her what she thought of it after finishing the book. She told me "Well, I'd give it maybe 3 stars... or 2... between 2 and 3." After asking what took away from the book's enjoyment, she told me that she thought Frankie was a little crazy (I'm guessing meaning she takes things ten steps further than necessary), and the ending was ok (she didn't end up with Alpha!), and the reveal about Porter was kind of random (sure, I guess it didn't add much to the plot), but reading about the pranks were fun. I felt a bit disappointed that it didn't strike as much of a chord with her as it did with me, but I couldn't really explain what I hoped she would take out of the book. Thinking on that now, I'm going to try to elaborate on that:

This book was able to verbalize thoughts that I'm not even sure I fully realized I was thinking whenever I felt out of place, out of the loop or just inadequate for being a girl. This book made me reflect on other times when I did or said things that discounted my femininity without even thinking and what my willingness to do so and ignore values I have says to the male population. I'm not saying that after reading this book, I want girls to see boys as the opposition and the enemy or to not do things that society would deem "feminine" or "masculine" if it's really what they want and are comfortable doing. I want girls to come out of this book relating with that feeling of disconnect just for being a girl, recognizing it in situations in their own life, and deciding for themselves how they want to act in those situations. Whether it's agreeing and going along, reaching a compromise, or arguing their point of view, I want girls to understand the strength of having each of those choices.

Some more thoughts.

There's a couple specific paragraphs that really hit home for me. Frankie muses on the three different ways most females will act "when confronted with the peculiarly male nature of certain social events":

1. wonder what the point is, shrug, and opt out for more feminine pastimes

2. will be bored but still wanting to be supportive, marginally participate and seem interested

3. jump into whatever is going on with possibly false enthusiasm and gain the boys' respect after they've "proved their mettle"

As a girl who attended a largely male-dominated engineering program at university, I knew exactly what this is like. Guys are funny and cool and fun to hang out with, but it always felt a little disconcerting to gain the compliment of being "so one of the guys" when you show your competitive side, athletic skills, ability to trade cutting barbs, or at the very least, not get easily disgusted or offended by things. Like I had to put up a certain front in order to be an accepted part of the group. I'm not trying to point fingers or villainize boys for making girls feel this way, but just showing my personal connection to Frankie and this book. Anyways a lot of the time I liked being able to be more aggressive around guys, though that might also say something about the differences of how girls act around guy friends or other girl friends.