Contemporary YA Reviews #5: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart & A Small Madness by Diane Touchell

February 17, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, Books, Reviews

Contemporary YA Reviews #5: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart & A Small Madness by Diane TouchellThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by Diane Touchell, E. Lockhart
Published by Allen & Unwin on January 1, 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository
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Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father's 'bunny rabbit'. A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder.

And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks: No longer the kind of girl to take 'no' for an answer. Especially when 'no' means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society. Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew's lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

Feminism is an important topic, especially for those who unknowingly reinforce these gender stereotypes without realising how it impacts societal attitudes. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks features a character who believes she is feminist, but this is not a feminist book.

She found herself to be a talented tail – as if her years of meek inconsequentiality had trained her. She remembered what it felt like to be invisible – and she felt as if she could will herself back to that invisibility and follow Matthew and his friends quite easily, just by becoming the girl they’d never noticed. 

Frankie Landau-Banks annoyed me to no end. She’s obsessed with her crush, Matthew, and is delighted when he starts taking an interest in her. Despite being several years younger, she loves to run with her assumptions that he only sees her as a “cute, pleasant and beautiful young girl”. When she discovers his involvement in the male society of the Basset-Hounds, her behaviour becomes increasingly fixated, immature and obsessive. She wants to prove that she’s good enough to be a part of it, even though it’s historically been an order of males.

A healthy individual would either form her own female club, empower other females, or talk to Matthew about her concerns, but instead she stalks the guys for the entire book and plans on infiltrating their club. Why anyone would want to be part of a male exclusive club who plays pranks and swims around naked is only my guess. But it’s clear Frankie has some sort of inferiority complex for being born a woman.

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 as powerful as their boyfriends. A box for people who were not forces to be reckoned with. Frankie wanted to be a force.

Although there are some healthy topics and discussions of feminism, Frankie is annoyingly loud-mouthed, opinionated and righteous person who would go off at anyone who she perceives as anti-feminist. Some of these things, like alpha males wanting to protect women, could be right. But others, like Matthew and the boys not including her in the plans of the Basset-Hounds, aren’t so much and it was annoying when Frankie would spout off about being excluded. Her use of negative positive wording such as “gruntled” instead of “disgruntled” in normal conversation reinforces her superiority to everyone. I didn’t like Frankie and thought she had a whole heap of issues and I craved for them to be addressed in a healthy way.


Having read and loved We Were Liars, I was surprised at how different The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was. It features long-winded, dry and dull writing, and is primarily about a teenage girl who feels insecure amongst men. Frankie is the type of person I would stay far away from and the book could have addressed feminism in a more meaningful manner. It does contain some good topics of discussion though, but the way it was executed just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 

A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell Review: Teenage Pregnancy ConsequencesA Small Madness by Dianne Touchell
Published by Allen & Unwin on February 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Rose didn’t tell anyone about it. She wondered if it showed. She looked at herself in the mirror and turned this way and then that way. She stood as close to the mirror as she could, leaning over the bathroom basin, looking into her own eyes until they disappeared behind the fog of her breath. Looking for something. Some evidence that she was different now. Something had shifted inside her, a gear being ratcheted over a clunky cog, gaining torque, starting her up. But it didn’t show. How could all of these feelings not show? She was a woman now but it didn’t show and she couldn’t tell anyone.

A devastating, compelling novel that will get everyone talking, from the author of Creepy and Maud.

A Small Madness packs a punch in its short length. Going into the book without knowing anything about it, really had me unprepared for the emotional journey ahead. This is not an easy read. But it’s an important one.

It all starts from one small mistake: unprotected sex leading into teenage pregnancy. The book does not hold back on the gory details, and explores every single consequence right through to the end. What starts out as one innocent decision, will lead to a journey of heartache and change, and the story really jerked my emotions about. From the emotional turmoil of the teen parents, to their loss of hope for the future, to their withdrawal from everyday life and the desperation of their actions, A Small Madness clasped my heart and didn’t let go.

This would be a change that skulked and shimmied over a long time, torturous and unpredictable as evolution. Life would become volatile and random, change stacked upon change over weeks, months, years.

There are themes in the book that will make you uncomfortable, from the awkward approach to sex, the gory details of pregnancy, to the slut shaming of Rose’s best friend. This is a harsh, confronting novel containing bullying, teenage pregnancy, self harm, depression and mental illness. It’s dark, it’s edgy, and I felt like it would be relatable to those who have experienced a similar journey. I appreciated how it didn’t sugar coat the details, and was somewhat horrified by what I found within it’s pages.

The book has a strong focus on friendship and family as a support network, which was important to help the characters with what they were going through. It was refreshing to see Michael and Roses parents as a key part of their lives, even though they reacted in different ways.

“I have plans, too,” Rose reiterated. “I have a future.”
And Liv said, “Not anymore.”

Everything in the book is somber and depressing, with the consequences escalated to the very extreme. This made the book seem a bit too unrealistic and over-emphasised, especially towards the end of the book. It’s filled with drama and emotional turmoil, and I think Rose’s downward spiral illustrated the point perfectly. I did feel that the consequences of the her actions became a bit too far-fetched, leaving us with unresolved discomfort at the end of the book. The ending kind of leads off abruptly, not in a satisfactory manner. But the story had been told by then, and the point was made.

Instead of subtlety, it likes the drive the point hard that teenage pregnancy has negative consequences. Teenage pregnancy is life-changing, but it’s not the end of the world, like the book portrays. Where’s the beauty in having a child? Where’s the joy that you will feel upon being responsible for a young kid? None of this is mentioned. It’s a dark and depressing read, that serves as a cautionary tale but not everyone will agree with it’s approach.


A Small Madness is a raw, emotional and honest story of teenage pregnancy and the psychological consequences of it covering everything to its finest detail. It contains some very important messages in the book, that teenage pregnancy can happen to the best of us and it can have some very negative consequences.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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35 responses to “Contemporary YA Reviews #5: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart & A Small Madness by Diane Touchell

  1. Romi

    I loved this, myself, though just could not get through We Were Liars, and I find that really interesting that we reacted to the two books so differently! I do think Frankie feels like she is less respected and inferior, being born a woman, because that’s what she’s grown up seeing. Her father and his friends are bigger and more respected than her mother and herself, and I guess I understood and recognised, maybe, that. I’m not sure. I do know that Frankie, though certainly not always making the right choices, was a character I loved and felt spoke to me.
    I’m sorry it was a disappointing read for you, Jeann! Have you read any of E. Lockhart’s other work? She wrote a book called The Boyfriend List that is for a younger YA, but it’s really interesting. I’d love to read your thoughts on it! Xx

    My recent post Books I couldn't get through in my break #2.

  2. Oh, it's saddening that you didn't like this Emily Lockhart read! I tried We Were Liars and managed to enjoy that one quite a bit, but it seems like this one wasn't for you. I don't think I would like the main character much so I am going to give it a miss. The second book sounds more promising but I am still unsure.
    My recent post The Glass Arrow (Review & Giveaway!)

  3. literateture

    I have never read any of E. Lockhart's books so I wouldn't know how to take this HAHAH I do love the cover of it, it's pretty cute and clean. I thought Frankie would be a cute character but obsession is another thing….my fave genre is romance, I think she'll ruin it for me HAHA

  4. Bec

    A Diseruptible History has so much hype, but your review makes me question why. It sounds so strange and I can't blame you for getting annoyed with Frankie. She sounds like one of those borderline extremists that give feminism the bad name it has.

    I'm glad you enjoyed A Small Madness more! Teenage pregnancy is a topic that I've never actually read about before. And even if I wanted to, I don't know if I'd start with this one. From the sounds of things it's quite bleak.
    My recent post Review: Manga Classics РLes Mis̩rables

    • Oh exactly, we don\’t need it to have a bad name, it needs to be more positive and empowering than anything. It\’s a really depressing read Bec, I\’m not gonna lie lol.

  5. See? I don't understand why many have heralded Frankie like she invented the concept of feminism. In the meantime, it's her brand of feminism that gives feminism the wrong kind of stigma. It's not about women being better than men, it's about equality. I think the message is there, but the delivery is off putting.
    My recent post [496]: Hero by Samantha Young

  6. I am sorry neither of the reads were mindblowingly amazing for you but at least A Small Madness was a decent read! 🙂

    I am especially heartbroken to hear about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau. I can imagine how it may feel to hear about a club that is 'male exclusive' and how that can be enraging but stalking the members is not the answer….. You know, perhaps actually talk to the guys and tell them how the fact that their little club is male exclusive is kind of discriminating??

    bahhhh. I loved the author's Ruby Oliver series so I am sad this wasn't better.

    I am glad that A Small Madness focuses on so many important issues but there always seems to be this line between realistic and unrealistic and I feel that sometimes when books focus on too many issues, they tend to go overboard 🙁

    Lovely reviews hon 🙂
    My recent post ARC Review: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

    • Thanks Rashika, yeah, the fact that she decided to stalk them and envy in secret while still being friends with them was pretty weird.

      You nailed it with how sometimes books with too many issues can veer on the side of unrealistic!

  7. It was SO different wasn't it, Frankie actually felt more like a lesser version of a Marchetta novel, but without the humour and likability for me. But couldn't agree more, it had a touch of feminism, but it didn't come across as a strong girl standing up for her beliefs, but a whiny girl that was left out of something that was really none of her business. She really irritated me too.

    I'm reading A Small Madness at the moment and wow, it's one of those balls and all story isn't it, no filter. Not sure I'm enjoying it, under the circumstances that probably isn't the right word, but I'm fully immersed in it and really need to find out what happens.

    Lovely reviews Jeann, big fan of the dual reviews <3
    My recent post All Fall Down by Ally Carter

    • I know right, it looks like many others were frustrated with Frankie's character, so it wasn't just me. Oh Kelly, it's a really tough book to get through. I'd be keen on hearing your thoughts if you manage to finish it.

  8. Braine-Talk Supe

    I was a teen mom so the second book hits close to home. Although I would strongly agree about how "negative" it is. Devastating, yes to a degree, but motherhood can be one of the most rewarding thing a woman will ever do in her lifetime

    The first one is already annoying me. I hate desperate girls not unless it's a thriller kind of thing, and they turn out to be psychosz

  9. Umm eww to that first book. A girl who claims to be a feminist, but the book isn't feminist at all? Ugh. I would be annoyed by this girl's obsessive nature too. That really sucks because I got so excited when you mentioned feminist main character! 🙁

    The second book sounds so emotional. I can feel like I would need to emotionally prepare myself if I start it. It sounds heartbreaking and all kinds of depressing, but we obviously need books like that.

    Lovely reviews, Jeann!
    My recent post Review : The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

    • I know, it was pretty frustrating to witness her behaviour throughout the book. Definitely a dark, disturbing read Nick. Thank you!

  10. Frankie sounds pretty annoying, and I don't think I'd be able to finish a whole book with her as the protagonist. I guess with her being so young, her views on feminism are quite different form my own, but she has to start somewhere, right? Not that infiltrating an all-male club is the best way to go about female empowerment.
    A Small Madness on the other hand sounds like a book I could really love, so I'm adding that to my TBR 🙂 I love reading realistic fiction, especially if it's well done, and I guess it really depends on a teen's personal situation whether pregnancy could be a very bad thing or if it could be OK.
    Have a great week, Jeann.
    My recent post Teaser Tuesday #44 – Double Play

  11. karawrites15

    I am so curious about A Small Touch of Madness. I've heard…mixed things about it, so I will be interesting to see where I stand on the topic. I've read a couple of teen pregnancy books before–but for me they've always come across as being a bit "meh"; like, I would expect a novel to that explores those themes to be dark / disturbing, and I'm really curious to see how this book handles it.
    My recent post Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Related Problems I Have

  12. thebigfatf

    Yeah, I didn't enjoy Frankie-Landau Banks either. I found it so boring and Frankie was just so whiny and insecure. She was one of those obsessive types and she thought she was so intelligent and witty but she was just down-right annoying. I haven't read A Small Madness and I haven't been planning to since my TBR is large enough as it is but it sounds interesting enough.

    • Man Frankie was definitely a character that really grated. A Small Madness is a different book that I haven\’t encountered like that, that\’s for sure!

  13. I just won A Small Touch of Madness and I REALLY WANT TO READ IT. I love the cover. I'm terrified of the content. haha. But I expect I'll enjoy it…although the Frankie book? No no no. She sounds downright irritating and obsessive and just, immature. So I will gladly skip that one. Although sucks after We Were Liars was mind-blowingly incredible. 🙁
    My recent post Yes, I Have #bookwormproblems

    • Congrats on winning it Cait! You really have to prepare itself for the dark and confronting themes. Yeah, Frankie Landau just drove me crazy

  14. Yayyy, I'm not the only one who didn't like Frankie! Also those pranks were such an anti-climax, seriously.

    But yeah…A Small Madness really went deep. I was kind of shocked, actually. I've never really read any YA about teenage pregnancy but this was a very confrontational start O_O
    My recent post Ten Bookish Problems

    • I know, I felt discomfort at the start of the book, thinking it would be for a younger audience but thankfully that wasn't the case. Frankie was so annoying!