Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why I like YA lit...and an example

I thoroughly enjoy young adult fiction, partly because I skipped over that genre when I was young. Throughout school, I always read several levels ahead of my age, so when I approached junior high and was starting to choose adult books that were not-quite-appropriate, my mom nudged me toward the classics, where I'd be sure to find a challenge. She was right--and that's how I met Austen, Dickens, Bronte, Fitzgerald and more. But nowadays, I'm savouring the fun reads that YA fiction offers, perhaps in an effort to make up for some lost reads...and lost time (I want a book I know I can finish in a day or two, as opposed to the two weeks that The Mysteries of Udolpho took me.

The latest YA offering I've read is E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Let's be honest; that is a FABULOUS title.

And a fabulous cover! I love it--and it's one of those rare books that has a cover that actually relates to the book. In the case of this one, that letter (and the seal) pushes the main action of the book forward.

The book is pitched as a story of Frances "Frankie" Landau-Banks' boarding school pranks. Sounds like fun, right? Well, it is, but don't go into this book thinking it's a tale of pranks. It's much more.

Here's the crux of the story: Frankie is being denied entry into a secret club of future history-makers merely because she's a female. She knows she's smarter than the male members and just as worthy of entry into the club, so she proves it.

There was a strong dose of feminism in the writing...I thought it felt a bit preachy at times. Which reminds me of another aspect that I found interesting in the book: Lockhart, through Frankie, explores some random aspects of modern history, including urban explorers, architecture as repression and a few other random topics. It was interesting but, maybe just to my eyes, a bit obvious. Perhaps that's just because I'm not 15, but it was something I noticed.

Overall I'm just a bit wobbly on whether I liked this book or not. I was expecting it to be a funny story but it was more of a "girl learns that females are not given as many opportunities as men, tries to right that wrong, and instead learns that it's impossible--oh, and you should fall in love with someone who values your mind, not your looks." Maybe this is E. Lockhart's story and she wanted to impart her wisdom? Anyway, I still love the cover and title.

Rating: 7/10

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