Frankie had gotten by at Alabaster on the strength of being Zada's little sister. (2.5)
Alabaster may be a fine institution of learning, but let's get real—it's still high school. These students care more about their reputation within the school than just about anything. And those reputations have nothing to do with learning or grades. Reputation matters, and if you don't have any social cache, you're dead meat.
"Right now is when you make the friendships that are gonna last you a lifetime. These people will get you jobs, you'll get them jobs. It's a network that's going to give you opportunities, Bunny Rabbit. Opportunities." (4.7)
Senior is pretty serious about what he's getting out of paying for Alabaster. We guess it's not just fancy prep clothes and cute boys. And to be fair, dear old dad has a point. The choices Frankie makes at Alabaster will likely affect the rest of her life. So, based on her choices, how do you think she's going to fare in the real world?
Like the other students at Alabaster, Matthew wore none of his wealth on his back. Old chinos and a thin red T-shirt with a stain on the stomach, ancient sneakers, and the same backpack Frankie knew he'd carried last year. (7.2)
Matthew's reputation precedes him. Clichés aside, that means that he doesn't need to bother looking rich or powerful because everyone already knows that he is.
[B]ut she was a heterosexual sophomore with no boyfriend and no social power (especially now that Zada had graduated). On what planet would a girl in her position refuse to go to a golf course party with Matthew Livingston? (12.42)
Frankie, unlike Matthew, has very little to fall back on. She's just a sophomore, and she hasn't made a name for herself outside of her sister's reputation. But by the end of the novel, you can bet she's a bit of legend. And the way she gets her reputation is, shall we say, less than typical.
"Okay. Playing host—or promising to—is like how Matthew dispels anxieties people have about his social position. And—and this is where it gets complicated—it paradoxically lets him solidify that exalted position." (14.113)
Ah, Zada the sociologist. Anyways, she's right about some things; Matthew really is so up there in the social chain that it's okay for him to act really casual about stuff. While he does so under the guise of making people think he's all humble and chill, it's really a subtle reminder that he's awesome and better than you. Classy dude, that Matthew.
Are you going to tell the dogs that you're not the guy they think you are? Tell Richmond everything and implicate all the dogs who have done your bidding? Show Elizabeth you're not the man she thinks she loves? (37.16)
Frankie uses Alpha's reputation against him here, in order to keep his mouth shut about the whole email thing. After all, he wouldn't want anyone to know that he's not the mastermind that they think he is. Being the clever, cunning Alpha is part of what makes him who he is at Alabaster.
She was explaining this whole prank to him, the prank he'd actually carried out, and instead of listening to her point, he was correcting her grammar. "You're thinking too much," he had said. (40.52)
Poor Frankie thinks she's gone and earned herself legendary status at Alabaster, but Matthew's puny sense of imagination can't quite comprehend the awesomeness of which he's just been a part. He doesn't seem to care much about Frankie's reputation—that is, until it affects his own (i.e., when Frankie makes him look like an idiot for pulling on those pranks right under his nose).
She hoped, she hoped that he would see how badly she wanted to be part of his world, how badly she'd wanted to break through the door that separated them, and how much she deserved to break through. (43.105)
Frankie just wants to be elevated in Matthew's eyes, to be accepted as his peer. She wants the kind of respect and reputation that he has around campus. But (not that Shmoop is in the romantic advice game) does that sound like the makings for a healthy relationship? Not so much. It seems to us that Frankie doesn't want Matthew so much as she wants to be seen with Matthew—to have earned her spot in the exclusive upper echelons of Alabaster society.
"But he'll be furious you got the whole thing exposed and lost the Disreputable History. He'll think you showed disrespect to his sacred institution and the secrecy of the club." (44.13)
Even though Frankie is his daughter, Senior's still incredibly wrapped up in the reputation of his beloved club. Which surprises exactly no one. Once an old boy, always an old boy.
"My dad was a member, and my older brother, too. Whole thing. I'm a legacy. So I was fairly certain I'd get the tap, if I only got those guys to like me." (44.49)
In the end, the Order's practice of picking the "worthy" from those with a good family reputation backfired on them. Porter never was a loyal member at all!