Published by Allen & Unwin on January 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult
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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!
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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