Hillary Frank Biography (1976-) - Sidelights
Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyHillary Frank (1976-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Hillary Frank's debut novel, Better than Running at Night, follows the story of Ellie Yelinsky's first year of college as an art major. Like many young women, Ellie's freshman year is full of new people, new feelings, and new challenges. One of Ellie's primary encounters occurs at a costume party where she dances with a devil named Nate, who soon becomes her lover. As the relationship continues, Ellie faces troubling doubts about Nate's fidelity and his manipulative attitude toward women, as well as her own feelings about love, sex, and relationships. At the same time, Ellie begins to question her talent as an artist. Mr. Gilloggley, her very loud and temperamental art teacher, is pushing her in a direction that she finds new and unwelcome. Furthermore, Ellie experiences the startling revelation that her paintings are far from the masterpieces she once thought they were.
Better than Running at Night follows Ellie on her journey toward maturity as she makes decisions about her personal life and values, and as she expands her skill, vision, and self-confidence as an artist. "Frank is patient and tactful in her evolution of character," wrote Deborah Stevenson in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, describing Ellie as "deeply authentic." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted especially Frank's credible depiction of the world of art school and art students, recommending the book for its "many truthful moments and the strong portrayal of the heroine." In Booklist, Hazel Rochman praised Better than Running at Night for its "honesty, wit, and a wild first-person narrative," while School Library Journal critic Betsy Fraser remarked, "The book shines when Ellie is discovering and devoting herself to art."
Frank told SATA: "Better than Running at Night began as a twenty-page illustrated story for a creative writing class during my senior year in college. I wrote it because I noticed that a lot of my female friends were continuously going back to boyfriends who mistreated them. My friends didn't like it when I confronted them on this issue, and, as a result, I lost several friends. I wrote Better than Running at Night in an attempt to answer the question 'What is so compelling about bad boys?' This is not to say that boys don't get into relationships with manipulative partners, too, but I think that the circumstances in this book are more common for young women.
"I believe that it's important for teenagers to have literature available to them that is about what's really going on in their lives. As an instructor for an inner-city public high school program in Chicago, I know that young people are constantly curious about the world around them and about what's going on in their own minds and bodies. They are often confused. I believe that when many teens read novels, they are looking to identify with the protagonist—to learn from characters' mistakes, to see how they handle adversity and loss, and to watch how they change and grow. I hope that young readers will identify with Ellie's sense of independence and will apply it to their own lives."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Better than Running at Night, p. 322.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2002, Deborah Stevenson, review of Better than Running at Night, pp. 56-57.
Publishers Weekly, August 5, 2002, review of Better than Running at Night, p. 74.
School Library Journal, January, 2003, Betsy Fraser, review of Better than Running at Night, p. 138.