The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
This is one of the most fun and most feminist YA books I’ve read in a while. It’s about an unequal relationship between a senior boy and a sophomore girl in a ritzy New England boarding school. The protagonist, Frankie, the sophomore girl, discovers the secret society her boyfriend is leading and bends it to her own ends, issuing shadow commands to the organization to pull off impressive, subversive pranks. Throughout the book, she chafes at the fact that everyone seems to underestimate her because she’s small, female, and good-looking. In the beginning, the book seems like a traditional romance, a Cinderella story in which the geeky girl is elevated in social status by a popular boy, but Frankie isn’t content to play such a passive role. She’s intrigued by the confidence her boyfriend and his friends have, which comes from living easy lives of privilege, and wants that for herself even more than she wants the guy. Her pranks are witty and smart, and all the more impressive because she masterminds them in a completely hands-off way. I was really impressed by the book, which incorporated college-level intellectual ideas like the Panopticon and noblesse oblige. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Printz Award, and I think it merits these honors.