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Better Than Running at Night Paperback – August 26, 2002
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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*)
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.