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Better Than Running at Night
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Better Than Running at Night

4.4 24
by Hillary Frank

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Having left behind the melodrama of her solitary high school days—and the beheaded martyrs in her paintings—Ellie arrives at the New England College of Art and Design. Looking forward to the opportunity to recreate herself and her art, she begins her first day by dirty dancing with the Devil. Then she makes out with him. Ellie soon learns a lot about


Having left behind the melodrama of her solitary high school days—and the beheaded martyrs in her paintings—Ellie arrives at the New England College of Art and Design. Looking forward to the opportunity to recreate herself and her art, she begins her first day by dirty dancing with the Devil. Then she makes out with him. Ellie soon learns a lot about herself in this story about independence, trust, and boys.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"With honesty, wit, and a wild first-person narrative, this first novel breaks boundaries in YA fiction with a story about college freshman Ellie Yelinsky and her search for art, love, sex, and meaning." --Booklist, starred Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Readers will enjoy the presentation of a strong female who puts finding herself and moving ahead with her talent ahead of maintaining a false pretense to her boyfriend or to the professor who is unwilling to acknowledge the dedication and improvement she has shown." SLJ School Library Journal

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 Cahners Business Information.
Ellie, a talented artist, has just started as a student at the New England College of Art and Design when she meets sexy Nate at the Artists' Ball. She loses her virginity to him and they begin an affair, brought together by physical attraction and by the coincidence that neither of them knew their real fathers. Nate's father died when he was very young. Ellie has been raised by her hippie mother, who confesses that she has no idea who Ellie's father was, and the man she married, with whom Ellie struggles to connect: he means well, but his idea of connection is to send her off to college with a bag of marijuana. Ellie falls hard for Nate, but soon realizes that he's not the faithful kind, which causes her much anguish. Eventually, she breaks off the relationship. Meanwhile, an enthusiastic, excitable teacher helps her develop her artistic talent; she starts to make other friends at school; and she reaches out to her stepfather, by inviting him to share art that is meaningful to her. This first novel by a freelance writer and artist is enhanced by some little b/w drawings accompanying chapter headings. It feels real and honest in its depiction of Ellie's initial euphoria over her relationship with Nate, both the physical closeness and the emotional connection, and then her growing discomfort with his infidelity and selfishness. Her artistic journey is intriguing too, as she encounters different teaching styles and develops new techniques for depicting what she sees and feels. Fellow art students in particular will enjoy reading about her experiences. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, HoughtonMifflin, 264p. illus.,
— Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT
This novel presents a somewhat surrealistic view of a college girl's experience away from home. Because she is an art student, readers won't mind some surrealism (especially the beginning). Although Ellie seems a bit naïve about some things, such as Nate's "infidelity" and a classmate's blatant crush on her, she is easy to like and relate to. This book is fast paced (I was able to read it in a day), and the drawings in the beginning of most chapters make the book all the better to enjoy. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Houghton Mifflin, 240p,
— Anna Yu (aka Anna Banana), Teen Reviewer <%ISBN%>0618104399
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Ellie's first year at art school starts with her first party, complete with a three-way dance and kiss with a costumed Devil and Elvis. She finds herself having sex for the first time with Nate, the Devil, a week after the event. As they continue on together, Ellie soon discovers that he has an "open relationship" with an old girlfriend, as well as a number of suspect encounters with other female students. She balances this questionable relationship, her classes, and a strange background in which her parents, former hippies who named her Ladybug, try to convince her to smoke pot to relax and are not sure of the identity of her biological father. The book shines when Ellie is discovering and devoting herself to art, making her seem even more serious when compared to the silly and showy professor and performance artists who are adored by her fellow students. Readers will enjoy the presentation of a strong female who puts finding herself and moving ahead with her talent ahead of maintaining a false pretense to her boyfriend or to the professor who is unwilling to acknowledge the dedication and improvement she has shown.-Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Canada Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.75(d)
580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Hillary Frank is a freelance writer and illustrator. Her novel, Better Than Running at Night, was named a 2003 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association and a Top 10 First Youth Novel by Booklist. Her radio stories have aired on a variety of public radio programs, including This American Life, Morning Edition, Marketplace, Studio 360, and Chicago Matters. 

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Better Than Running at Night 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
PsycoticBohemian More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! For some reason I really felt like the main character's thought process was so much like my own as an artist I could really feel for her. I'd say this is my #1 favorite book ever! I'm planning on re-reading it really soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I personally loved this book. It's hard to find a good book that actually displays a young girl's emotions as she tries to find herself. Throughout her 'Nate drama' you really start to feel like you know this girl and can relate to her.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Honestly, this book has touched me so deeply, although I haven't experienced anything Ellie has, I felt as if I was her, I was feeling her pain, her sadness, loving Nate, even though he betrayed her. After I was done reading this book I wanted to cry because it was over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fabulous, it felt as if you already knew Ellie. Anyway, to make things short and sweet, this is about an art student who meets another (sexy) art student and she falls hard for him sexually. When will she ever really find out what is better than running at night?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The language is amazing. I love this book so much, I can never stop reading or put it down. This book made me fall in love with reading. I read it in 2008-9ish and Ive never forgotten about it. Its my favorite.
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CASTROCE More than 1 year ago
Better Than Running At Night by Hillary Frank is a story people about finding and allowing themselves to go out of comfort zones to see things from a different perspective. This applies to life but is shown through the art in the story. Ladybug "Ellie" is going to art school and the first person she meets is the devil, also known as Nate. She and Nate begin their relationship by discussing art and making out! Although Ellie is not dating Nate and Nate has a girlfriend, they continue with their very public and very physical relationship. But when it comes to art school, her classes are boring. Ellie is used to painting vicious, bloody pictures of martyrs, so when asked to draw boxes with straight lines, she finds it more than elementary. But the simple skill of drawing straight lines, feeling the movement of the subject, and picturing yourself as the subject will come in handy when she moves onto a different class. She then knows how to analyze the art, see it from a different point of view and therefore understand the art. In art there are two sides to the purpose of the piece, what it means and then why the artist chose to do this. This applies to life as well, what happened and why? But seeing the "why" can only be accomplished by visualizing it through the other person's point of view, like the artist. This may make some people feel uncomfortable but this is the whole point that Frank is trying to show. People, artists, cannot truly understand the purpose of something unless they see it outside of their own comfort zone. I like that Frank does not just say the message of the story, she shows it. It is also not in an obvious way with examples from life but through examples of art. The description of the art is also vivid. When Frank describes the tears in the eyes of "Ivan the Terrible" the reader can not only see the tears but feel Ivan's anger at himself for what he has done. The anger he feels because he holds his son's lifeless body and it cannot be fixed. However I did not like the descriptions of the nights Ellie and Nate spend together. It is irrelevant to the purpose of the story and drags on when reading it. The parts of the story that really intrigue the reader are the parts that describe the art in front of the characters. The art that they are searching for the meaning of but that also relates to what is going on in their lives. Teenagers should read this book because the feeling of the world crashing down due to little situations is common in teenagers. They feel this way because the situation is only seen through one set of eyes and from one point of view. Learning to look at art, or life, from a different perspective or being empathetic is a good skill to have.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the best book I have ever read. Though not entirely appropriate, inspiring for young artists everywhere. The detail of Ellie¿s, the protagonist¿s, feelings about her artwork and of her peer¿s artwork is amazing, and it seems real. Ellie goes through life changing experiences and has to make life changing choices as she goes through the New England College of art and design. Her main conflict being who is she becoming? She is struggling with her internal conflict of coming out of her melodramatic, gory, high school funk and becoming a worthwhile artist. Her feelings, conflicts, and her sense of artistic feeling are amazingly real and it is a joy to read. I got sucked into the world of art, drama, and donuts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book and i couldn't put it down... i loved it :' the experiences she had, the feelings she felt, you were in the book with her rooting for her to make it through.. it's a book that i read a long time ago and i'm planning on reading it again... i loved it :' it was also well written and funny/clever!.. im getting excited thinking about reading it again :' lol yay i just in a way wanted it to work out in the end :'... read the book and you'll know what i mean
Guest More than 1 year ago
At school Ladybug has no problem making friends. No, this isn't a story about insects that can talk. It's 'Better Than Running at Night' by Hillary Frank, a novel about a new college student named Ladybug Yelinsky, who understandibly goes by Ellie. She is a talented art student at the New England College of Arts and Design, N.E.C.A.D., dubbed 'Nekked' by her drug pushing hippie father. The book charts her transformation of art and self in her new school, beginning with her kiss with the devil, who she meets at a costume ball. He becomes a new friend and a first love named Nate. Neither of them knew their fathers, his dropped dead in McDonalds (go figure) and Ellie's mother was one of those hippies (make love not war). On a lighter note they share the mutual interest of painting the art of the figure, or human body, but Nate's interest involve paiting nudes, or, as Ellie decidedly calls them, 'buck-nekkeds' of the girls at school, without their consent or Ellie's. College students will appreciate the realistic portrayal of the challenge that comes with balancing life and love. The book is told in a series of vignettes, or short literary descriptions, of her life along iwth small illustrations, similar to a diary. It is a quick but still highly original and meaningful read. You will find yourself breathing hard with her as she runs through the cold streets at night, feeling the condensation that was her breath just inches in front of her nose, 'running home just in time to beat the dawn'. Her art is her adrenaline, she doesn't need the dope her father slipped her, but does she need Nate?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book took me a span of 24 hours to read. It's the best thing I've read in a while. Very emotional. It spoke to me because Ellie Reminded me of myself. I loved every page turn though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with this book, and its chacters after the first five pages. Its worth every penny. A well written, quick read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A realistic portrayal of someone ambivalent about her lover, even when faced with his other girlfriend. By novel's end, she's able to pull away fcrom Nate and develop positive relationships with the other men in her life, Sam, her father, Ralph, Ed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first saw the cover of the book, I thought that it was going to be a depressing story, but when I was reading it I understood that Ellie was just a girl going through the next phase of her life and that included ups and downs with school and of course a boy. It's not depressing but at first it was a little complicated because I wondered how the title was relevant, but when I turned the final page, it was clear.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book and the many things the main character had to go though and the many obstacles she had to go though and figure out on her own
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a brillant book. The plot, characters, and setting were awesome. I think people could really relate to Ellie and her situations. I loved it!