readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January: Roundtable

Little Willow led us around the table again this month. We had some great guests. Go ahead and listen in, then drop your own thoughts in the comments!

"We're kicking off 2010 at readergirlz with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, a book I highly and frequently recommend. (Read my full-length review of the novel.) This witty story begins with a letter written by Frances (Frankie) Rose Landau-Banks to the headmaster of her prep school. In this letter, Frankie claims to be "the sole mastermind" behind the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. But what exactly is the Order, and what did she do? Keep reading to find out.

Check out the first line of the first narrative chapter of the book:

Though not, in hindsight, so startling as the misdeeds she would perpetrate when she returned to boarding school as a sophomore, what happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer after her freshman year was a shock.

Joining us for today's roundtable discussion are eight enthusiastic readers. We have readergirlz divas Lorie Ann Grover and Melissa Walker; the current readergirlz author-in-residence, Elizabeth Scott; Shelf Elf, HipWriterMama, Jackie, and me, Little Willow, four members of postergirlz, the teen lit advisory council for readergirlz; and James, also known as Book Chic, a fellow blogger. I will be serving as moderator. Let's go!

Little Willow: The summer between her freshman and sophomore years, Frankie Landau-Banks changes physically, naturally, just part of growing up:

Between May and September, she gained four inches and twenty pounds, all in the right places. Went from being a scrawny, awkward child with hands too big for her arms, a frizz of unruly brown fluff on her head and a jaw so sharp it made Grandma Evelyn cluck about how "when it came to plastic surgery, it never hurt to do these things before college" – to being a curvaceous young woman with an off-beat look that boys found distinctly appealing. She grew into her angular face, filled out her figure, and transformed from a homely child into a loaded potato – all while sitting quietly in a suburban hammock, reading the short stories of Dorothy Parker and drinking lemonade. The only thing Frankie herself had done to facilitate the change was to invest in some leave-in conditioner to tame the frizz. She wasn't the kind of girl to attempt a makeover.

Little Willow: The Disreputable History... follows a young girl's journey through her formative years with honesty, humor, and a lot of heart. I really love this book. I think it's a wonderful coming-of-age tale. I thought the story was creative, the characters and events were memorable, and the writing was both intelligent and humorous. Throughout the book, Frankie becomes more mature as her sensibilities change and as she becomes more aware of the people and places around her. I thought her character arc was very realistic and believable. What did you think?

Lorie Ann: I cheered for Frankie from start to finish, how she trusted her own ideas, abilities, and gathered the courage to lead.

Shelf Elf: I agree, Lorie Ann. I was rooting for Frankie, "Do it! Do it! You can pull it off!" It was fun getting to see her work her way through problems creatively.

Lorie Ann: I loved Frankie's character arc. It is an honest portrayal of a teen girl discovering her body has changed, people are reacting differently to her, and she has to think through how she's going to walk on her new legs. The pacing was spot on.

HipWriterMama: I loved how Frankie dissected the old boys' network to find her own source of power. She wanted to be noticed for her brains rather than her looks.

Little Willow: Let's hear it for smarts! Did any of you go through any major or minor transformations in high school, obvious or otherwise?

Shelf Elf: I wish I could say yes, because I think that going through big changes in high school is a real rite of passage. But truthfully, I was more or less the same kind of girl the whole way through: academically focused, serious, goal-oriented, perceived to be "nerdy." My "transformations" didn't happen until university when I eventually took a dramatic turn away from an academic path towards work as a pastry chef.

HipWriterMama: My big transformation was getting a better sense of myself and knowing I didn't have to follow everyone else to be liked. It probably helped that I had strict parents so I couldn't always do things other people did. But, I've also been blessed with good friends who didn't pressure me to do things.

Book Chic: I actually did go through a transformation during high school. Coming in, I was very shy and rarely spoke up, but through my four years of making friends, being in various extracurriculars and all that, I became more outgoing. I'm still fairly shy, but I came out of my shell more, developed, used my humor, and became the lovable person I am today.

Melissa: I always wanted a big summer transformation where I'd come back and wow everyone with my new, gorgeous self. It didn't happen as dramatically as I imagined, but slowly and surely, I did grow into being comfortable with who I was, and that's what Frankie does in this book -- and it's interesting that her physical transformation precedes her emotional one.

Little Willow: I was really impressed with how E. Lockhart told Frankie's story. Even though she used third-person present-tense, she really gets readers into Frankie's mind. What did you think of the narration and the writing?

Lorie Ann: I enjoyed the narrator and thought I'd like to know that person more. I suppose that is what we'll be doing in January! And I didn't feel removed from Frankie. The narrator chose to include the full thought process to keep us sympathetic and engaged. I loved the rapid-fire thoughts in a 2-3 second period, ending in Frankie's final response.

Elizabeth Scott: I thought the story was really well done!

Book Chic: The story was really well done and was just very clever in how it was executed. It made for such a wonderful, engaging, and original read! I remember the first time I read it being very thrown off while reading it because of the third person when like 99.9% of YA is first person and it was just so jarring. Now, I feel like there's more third person narrators that I'm reading, and so, in re-reading [the book] for this discussion, I slipped into the story much easier. But I feel like the third person was the best way to tell the story.

Melissa: I loved the way it was written, and sometimes I felt like I was the narrator, which made me feel very close to the story. So skilled, that E. Lockhart!"

Read the entire roundtable here. Thanks to everyone who participated this month and to our host, LW!


Little Willow said...

Thanks for posting and participating!

Anonymous said...

Such a fun one to talk about!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't even read all of this because my head was in danger of exploding. Thanks you guys.

Little Willow said...

I don't want you to explode, E!

(Now I'm picturing the exploding shoes in Kristen Tracy's novel Lost It. So good.)

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