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Better Than Running at Night Hardcover – September 30, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,953,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
I really really enjoyed this book and its fresh look on being an artist and trying to learn your craft.

Ladybug Yelinksy (nicknamed Ellie) has left home for the first time and is living in a little apartment while going to art school. She was a moody outcast in high school, dramatically doing her face black and grey and painting/drawing disturbing scenes, until she saw Ilya Repin's painting "Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581". Instead of discouraging her, this makes her even more determined to become a good artist. She stops painting her face - deciding instead to focus on her actual paintings - and goes off to school. At a party at the start of school, she meets a boy dressed as a devil, goes home with him... and you can imagine the rest.

The author does a great job showing Ellie's character, her insecurities, her questions, her lack of knowledge about sex, her immense knowledge about the human body and its bones and muscles, yet her lack of knowledge about what to do with it, and her growth as a person and an artist. Yes, sex is part of the story, but it works. I was a little disappointed that her hippy parents - who sent to school with pot and condoms - didn't explain sex better, but that's parents for you.

The cover for the book is perfect. I also enjoyed the little sketches inside.

Like other reviewers, I too was a bit disappointed in the ending. Not that Ellie's decision was wrong, but I had enjoyed getting to know her and her classmates and teachers and how she was learning art, and it just jumped a bunch of months ahead, making it seem like the most important part of the book was her relationship with Nate (the devil), not the story in totality, or her in totality.

Otherwise, I recommend it.
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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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