So now this Tournament of Books, wherein Frankie lost, has a zombie round, where Frankie lost again.
As you know, since I was busy reading other things, I did not read any of the other ToB books. I've only skimmed the non-Frankie entries. If I had read the other books, I'm sure it would be more interesting and I'd be more invested in what is said, etc.
For you other non-ToB followers.
There is one judge for the book versus book; here, in the zombie round, it was Rosecrans Baldwin. Frankie lost. Baldwin's ultimate conclusion: "Landau-Banks, on the other hand, lacks drama. It’s a book full of tension, but few surprises. Nothing seems to matter very much to the characters, and the story comes out flat. Judging by the Rooster poll, I’m sure there are thousands of fans who disagree with me, but I couldn’t find much to interest me in Landau-Banks and it was a chore to finish."
Huh. Yes, Frankie figuring out issues of patriarchy, love, lust, power, identity, manipulation, those things really don't matter much to the characters, did they? It's not like Frankie was permanently scarred or anything. Once again, I wish I had Jennifer Weiner to discuss this with.
Next, the official commentary by Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. Warner supports and likes Frankie; but I am curious about one thing. Warner writes, "E. Lockhart makes Frankie’s foundational dilemma clear very early on in the book, on page seven no less, “She had never been in love.”" Again, later, Warner is clear that this is a book about teen love: "As Doerr notes in a world of “global violence” and “child slavery,” the romantic tribulations of a intelligent, financially secure, recently-blossomed teenage girl seem truly trivial."
People read books. They have their own individual reactions; and yes, we do want to say to someone "you read it wrong," but people's individual reading experiences are their own, and valid. I am not saying Warner read it wrong; but I am curious as to why Warner read it that way.
Frankie is about love? And not just love, "romantic tribulations"? In the comments to this commentary, Meghan points out an aspect of Frankie that isn't about love at all: "[The book] addresses the seemingly-small, but daily, ways in which women are expected to minimize their own strengths in order to please men." Other comments also note that Frankie is about more than her emotions.
I asked at Twitter what readers thought Frankie was about; love wasn't among the responses. Instead I got: "desire, identity, and compromise"; "patriarchy"; "power"; "power"; "belonging"; "I'm not even sure Frankie's about "love" at all--but then I'm 41 & not 14. 14 might say it's love. 41 has diff viewpoint!". If you responded via twitter and I missed you, I'm sorry!
Here's the thing. Frankie loses or doesn't lose in the ToB. It really doesn't matter. It's a fun exercise for people who love books and who love talking about books and isn't that great? I'm looking forward to SLJ's Battle of the Books not because it'll be kids or YA books, but because chances are they are books I have read. Which will make it more interesting to me.
What does matter is how Frankie is being read, even by those who are fans, and I wonder. Personally, (and this, as is everything on this blog, has nothing to do with the Printz committee and is all me me me), I saw Frankie as being about Power, with the love story being the device to explore issues such as gender roles, manipulation, feminism, and belonging, but if I had to use one word it would be Power. And the "every day" love story/ school story is used because it is familiar to readers; and keeps the story from being didactic. The lessons Frankie learns about Power are such that, even tho they are learned (as most teenage lessons are) in the relative comfort of school and friends, they will be ones that shape who and what she becomes.
I wonder about Warner's reading of Frankie -- and, from the judging and other comments, he is not alone. His reading is right to him; I am not saying it is wrong. But I cannot help but wonder... is Frankie read this way because it is a YA book? A book about a girl? A book written by a woman? Why do the adult readers who I speak with, who are mostly female, yes, see something different in Frankie than romance?
To discuss amongst yourself:
Frankie is about railing against the status quo, including the definitions that exist to keep people out. "Oh, Frankie, you cannot be in the Bassets because you are a girl!" By the definition of what is a Basset, you do not fit. To what extent, if any, do the definitions at the Tournament of Books about what is and is not "literary excellence" affect how Frankie fared?
What is Frankie about? And if it is read as just a love story, or just a story about a privileged girl, how does that affect the reading and conclusions made about it?
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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