*I am going to preface by saying this post will be more of a mushy gush about how much I loved The Disreputable History instead of a clear analysis. But stay with me here.*
First off, let me start off by saying I could not put down The Disreputable History. I am fairly certain I burned through it in a day,
And I think the main conclusion I walked away with from the end of reading it is that we absolutely, absolutely need more of this kind of YA Lit on the bookshelves. While Frankie’s methods for achieving what she wants may not have been the best way to handle the situation (despite making for ingenious entertainment), the message was clear: it’s okay for a teenage girl to want to be a go-getter (in fact, she should be). I absolutely love this idea of a young teenage girl understanding that while she doesn’t need to apologize for wanting and even enjoying traditionally feminine things (the popular senior boyfriend, for example), they are not worth losing herself and who she yearns to be in the process of it. I think this is a seriously important point that we constantly forget to drive home to our young women in this 21st century world.
Second, I absolutely love, love, LOVE how well the book addresses this concept of connections and bonds in the “Old Boys Club.” While we’ve heard the concept of the glass ceiling time and again- I think this novel really gets to the language and attitude that forms the beams for the ceiling itself. Frankie is constantly called “adorable, sweet, bunny rabbit, pretty, darling, etc” by others, but these are never words she uses to describe herself throughout the novel. Language plays a lot into how women are perceived by others, and Lockhart does an execellent job of showing how quickly people (both friends and family) are prepared to underestimate her based on the way she looks or how they feel she thinks.
Lastly, a particular quote that stuck with me was:
“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 powerful as their boyfriends. A box for people who were not forces to be reckoned with.
Frankie wanted to be a force.” (pg 214)
^UGH. THIS. JUST ALL OF THIS.
The boundaries and lines outlined for Frankie (be sweet, adorable, smart-but not too smart, just be what I want to be and nothing more) are ones many young women face at some point when growing into who they want to be. By understanding that they don’t have to prescribe to these conditions already set out for them by society and challenging them, they give themselves a chance to grow into women who can build their own paths–without being boxed into something else along the way.
I say more lit like this on the shelves could really make a difference in the minds of young girls.
Because no one ever wants to be called “harmless” by someone who supposedly cares for them.