Saturday, March 03, 2007

Better Than Running at Night by Hillary Frank

Better Than Running at Night is about an art student named Ellie and her attempt to create/define a relationship in terms of love, physical attraction, and sex. Her other pursuit—art—seems secondary and fairly effortless. Ellie is a normal college freshman; more so, perhaps, than her peers at art school (who go out of their way to be extremely weird), which serves to make her a more sincere narrator. The story itself, however, involves too much navel-gazing, which will be tiresome for readers older than the teen crowd the book is intended for. Ellie is a passive narrator, and her fellow characters remain pretty static from beginning to end, seeming more like the objects Ellie draws than characters. What compels the reader to keep going is merely to see how it ends, not any particular investment in the outcomes for any of the characters. But at least it does compel the reader to keep reading.

Ellie’s narrative voice is frank, and at times it's funny, even witty; when it is, her voice is similar to the narrator of Speak (by Laurie Halse Anderson). The short chapters also remind me of Speak, which may encourage readers with short attention spans to give this book a try. Also appealing to its teenage audience will be the steamy (but not smutty) sex scenes.

(Readers of this book should be in at least high school; the sexy parts would probably be a bit much for middle school readers, and I’m pretty sure most parents would be appalled to find their 7th or 8th graders reading this.)

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