This is the very amusing story of a girl at a prep/boarding school who tries to infiltrate the all-male secret society of Alabaster Prep: The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. This group states, “We… do formally commit ourselves to “acts of disreputability, ridiculousness, and anarchy, reserving the possibility that we will also commit acts of indecency and illegality, should the occasions call for it.” And Frankie succeeds not only in infiltrating the group, but in running it. Without anyone knowing.
It all begins at the start of her sophomore year, when a senior boy – a gorgeous senior boy – starts noticing her. They date, but he keeps secrets from her (and lies to her), and she knows it. So she starts tailing him and figures some things out. She gives him numerable chances to straighten out the lies, but he doesn’t come clean. What she wants more than anything is to be treated like a person with a brain, not a pretty little body to be dated. …As seen here:
Matthew [her boyfriend] 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.
This is why I love Frankie. She refuses to be bound by the powers that be. She rages against the machine. She insists on being taken seriously as an intellectual.
In many ways, she succeeds. By the end of the story, she has the respect of most people on campus. She effects significant change in the school – changes that students had been lobbying for for years previous and hadn’t managed. But she fails at what matters most to her: being seen as an intellectual equal by Matthew, and being truly accepted into his group as her own person rather than just as Matthew’s girlfriend. (Matthew, when he believes the pranks are pulled by Alpha, calls them “brilliant”; when he finds out they were Frankie’s idea, he calls them “psychotic.” Total double standard.)
So, I was rather disappointed in the end of the book. At the end, there isn’t a single person in Frankie’s life who really understands and appreciates who she is. (Even of her roommate, the narrator comments, “Frankie is grateful to have such a loyal friend, but it does not escape her notice that Trish’s lack of understanding is a condition of that loyalty.”) Which makes me sad, because I’ve spent many, many years of my life in that very position.
But the story itself, along the way to the ending, was highly amusing and well worth the read. Here are some favorite parts:
- In a debate on whether fruit should be allowed on pizza, Alpha says, “A tomato may be a fruit, but it is a singular fruit. A savory fruit. A fruit that has ambitions far beyond the ambitions of other fruits.”
- The book references If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks. I was so hoping this title was entirely made up by the author, but it seems to be a real book. Perhaps I shall find it one of these days…
- The disreputable pranks themselves. So great!
If you’re looking for some fun, light-hearted reading, this is a good choice!