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Better Than Running at Night Hardcover – August 26, 2002

25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ellie Yelinsky is starting her freshman year at the New England College of Art and Design, and it's not exactly turning out like she expected. She falls for the devil at a costume party (in reality, cute sophomore Nate Finerman). She finds that her hippie parents have hidden pot in her baggage. Her beginning art instructor is a hysterical arm waver who only speaks in one tone: earsplitting. But the most disturbing discovery Ellie makes is that her paintings, mostly "screaming heads strangled by boa constrictors" are not dark, brooding masterpieces, but cheesy melodrama. However life, like art, isn't always what it seems. Nate actually is the devil, or at least a smooth-talking painter who considers himself the campus de-virginizer. Her dad only put pot in her suitcase in an attempt to make a meaningful connection with her. And even if Mr. Gilloggley is in desperate need of volume control, the more Ellie listens to him, the more she sees that what he has to share might actually help her grow past teen angst into true art.

Using spare language and a dry, witty tone, Hillary Frank skewers the hypocritical world of art school in this brilliant debut novel. Ellie's sharp, restrained observances are a refreshing change from the gushing girl novels that have sprung up in the wake of Louise Rennison's Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging. Intelligent and mature, Better Than Running at Night will appeal most to those discerning teen connoisseurs of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, and My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr. (Ages 14 and older) --Jennifer Hubert

From Publishers Weekly

Set at a prestigious (fictional) art school, this first novel revolves around a talented college freshman wrestling with her first relationship. Ellie, the narrator, is first met while dirty-dancing with the Devil, in a scenario quickly revealed as a costume party; a "sneering Elvis" joins them to set up a threesome ("Soon we were all making out"). This provocative opener only partially prefigures Frank's themes. Nate, the student dressed as the Devil, and Ellie make love a week or so later; shortly afterward, Ellie learns that Nate has an "open relationship" with a longtime girlfriend, plus a reputation for womanizing. Meanwhile, she acclimates to student life and deals with her parents, former hippies who openly discuss their youthful drug-taking and who have no idea which of Ellie's mother's many partners was Ellie's biological father. Frank proves most successful in characterizing Ellie as a painter the discussion of art is unusually specific, knowledgeable and convincing. The author also skillfully depicts the zeitgeist among the students, most of whom lionize the showy performance artists (among them a teacher who leads his class in taunting Ellie for her "old fart" pursuit of representational art). But Frank fumbles in linking Ellie's family dynamics to her attempts to come to terms with Nate. The parents are much less developed than the other characters, and this aspect of the story never quite jells. On balance, however, the many truthful moments and the strong portrayal of the heroine will likely compel readers' attention. Ages 14-up . (Aug.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618104399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618104390
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nancy E. on September 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ellie Yelinsky is away from home for the first time in her life at art school in New England. She wants to concentrate on improving her art, all which show a grim out look on life, but before she can even start classes her usually slow and isolated life gets changed. She dances with the devil at a costume party, and makes out with him as well. She later learns the devil's name is Nate and as she gets to know him she has a hard time finding out if he's more of a devil or an Angel. Her father thinks the only way he can bond with her is to give her the things he enjoyed as a teenager, mostly meaning drugs. The classes Ellie starts are much different from she had ever expected. Her teacher only speaks in one tone, yell, and he has her focusing on things she doesn't think are important. But as it turns out her teacher may be the only one that can teach her about art, and maybe something more than that.
This is the only book that's ever inspired me to join a school club, art club that is. If your in the mood for an original YA novel that can be read by adults as well, this is for you. The author, Hillary Frank, writes in a very artistic manner. She doesn't tend to spell everything out for you but trusts the intelligence of the reader to figure some things out for themselves. The cast of characters manages to be original while realistic at the same time. Whether it's the loud and obnoxious art teacher, the shy stoner Sam, or the sometimes good, sometimes evil Nate. This is a great book for people that are fans of books such as Sloppy Firsts and Love and other Four Letter Words.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Goodell on July 6, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was first drawn to this book by the cover art- I love Sabrina Ward Harrison, but after I read the synopsis I had to read it because it sounded just a little too much like my experience at Art School. The similarities between her experience as a first year art student and mine were freaky. Her writing style is witty and definately wicked, blatent and downright hiLARious at times but the ending lacked punch and left more to be desired.
The writing format was great for teenagers (it is written in these short clever essays, each with a headline that usually tied into some sort of pun). And even though the author is a talented writer and the story had potential I definately wouldn't reccommend it for a teenage girl... it is just busting it's bindings with casual sex and a total lack of responsibility or good judgment. Girls BE SMARTER THAN THIS! No matter how realistic it is- let's strive to live upright & bold. Live lives of purpose and not waste our energy on scummy cocky guys who don't deserve our time.... yeah, I know guys are warm and cuddly and intoxicate us with their phermones but it is pretty obvious which ones aren't to be trusted. This book was annoying in how dumb the girl acted in regards to this lame*ss guy... it was like "wake up stupid- he's a jerk"... (but I can't necessarily say anything cuz I have been there *sigh*)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
THis is one of those fully enveloping books, you just sink into it and that's all you know for a few hours. I loved the voice of Ellie, so insightful yet still the sort of clueless teenage girl we all were (at least I was). I was also releived that the expected ending never came; it was something surprising yet satisfying. It was also a great rendering of the art school absurdity. Hurrah for this book! I will now have to go look for her radio stories on This American Life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alia Huffman on February 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Better Than Running at Night, being her first novel, Hillary Frank writes a 240-page true-life story about college life, and living on your own. Frank's novel captures the essence of college life, and a strong portrayal of a young heroin that will likely compel readers attention.

A talented young freshman, Ellie Yelinsky, is attending her first year of college at a prestigious art school, New England College of Art and Design. Before leaving for college Ellie lives with her two hippie guardians. Her mother and her stepfather. With Ellie's mother's youthful drug-taking days, she has no idea who her biological father is. She doesn't connect with her stepfather, and the ways he tries to bond with her is by placing marijuana in her bag, and by urging her to smoke with him and her mother.

In the first page of the novel we are first introduced to Ellie at a costume party. She is "dirty dancing" with the "devil". The student dressed as the devil is Nate. Ellie and Nate make love a week later, and then she realized that Nate has an "open relationship" with his ex-girlfriend. Shortly after that Ellie finds that Nate has a reputation for womanizing. In all her art classes there is a dread locked boy that she notices. Sam has the "stoner" reputation by keeping to himself, listening to his headphones and now socializing. Ellie began being friends with Sam. This love triangle makes me feel like I can relate to her.

As being a fellow art student I enjoyed reading about her triumph over artistic talent. Her intriguing journey through too as she is learning different teaching styles and as she develops new techniques for depicting what she sees and feels. Meanwhile Ellie reached out to her stepfather by inviting him to share art that is meaningful to her.
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