Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson– 320 pages
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. When Alice Whitley arrives she’s put to work as a companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric son, who has the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. The longer she spends with the Bannings, the more Alice becomes obsessed with two questions: Who is Frank’s father? And will Mimi ever finish that book?
My Review: 3.5 stars
Be Frank With Me is a charming book about the over the top and eccentric young Frank and his small cast of characters. I really enjoyed reading this book and loved this brilliant, honest, literal and aggravating boy. He’s the kid you want to save and to hug yet he won’t let you touch him, or his things for that matter. He’s on the spectrum yet the author specifically don’t pin point his diagnosis. He’s Frank. That’s enough for the reader.
Frank was for sure my favorite character and as much as I enjoyed this book, I would’ve preferred multiple narrators. I wanted to be in Frank’s head as well as his mother’s, the reclusive M.M. Banning, who mirrors the famed Harper Lee. Our narrator was young and simply put, boring. I wanted to know more about her than the little bit we got: odd jobs, likes art, lost her mom, forgot her dad. Maybe seeing her through Frank’s eyes or any of the other characters would given her more, well, character. Also, there was a hint of something more going on between Alice’s boss and M.M. Banning, which left some unanswered questions. Then there was Xander, another odd duck, who found the right place to be useful but again, I wanted inside his head. Without more knowledge, he’s almost not necessary to the story.
L.A. represents itself with charm and grit, as does the glass house, which actually acts as its own character. This book opens your eyes to the meanness of kids, being different, school politics, loneliness, the need for friends, motherhood, the beauty of old movies and what constitutes a family.
Kudos to the author for the wealth of vocabulary offered in this book. I loved the title and it’s many inferences. I look forward to reading more from her. Fans of The Rosie Project will adore this book.
Quotes I liked:
Youth isn’t wasted on the young, literature is.”
-“Energy spent on worrying about a future you can’t control is energy wasted. It doesn’t do anybody one bit of good.”
-“You know who’ll hate it? My mother. That’s what I like best about it.”