New Release Book Review: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

frank-me-julia-claiborne-johnson-out-feb-2I am still on my break from mysteries and thrillers. While I love the genre I found that I needed some lighter fare.

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson is full of unique and eccentric characters were just what the doctor ordered.

M.M. Banning is in trouble. She has been swindled out of her fortune and needs to produce a second book or else she’s in danger of losing everything.

Her publisher, Issac Vargas sends his assistant Alice, a twenty-four-year-old computer savvy girl who needs to oversee the production of this new book.

M.M. Banning has a son, Frank, who can tell you all the facts you ever wanted to know about a particular subject but doesn’t understand sarcasm.

The book follows Alice’s time with M.M. Banning and Frank as she watches the precocious child left in her charge, tries to keep the reclusive author on track, and is drawn to the enigmatic Xander.

Oh, how do I describe Julia Claiborne Johnson’s debut book?

No, I am not parodying Mean Girls for dramatic effect, I am being one hundred percent genuine in my description of these characters and this book was so entrancing that trying to find a series of words to sum it up is like trying to scale a giant mountain that plopped down from space and landed right at my feet.

Now I realize that sounds ridiculous, but that’s the truth! Let me list a few of the words that came to mind after I finished Be Frank With Me:

Exhaulting. Satisfying. Witty.

Those three words perfectly sum up this book, of which I loved every word. I was so engrossed in the story that I found myself looking for long periods of time where I would be able to sit with these characters and enjoy their adventure.

Johnson has command of her setting, sending Alice and Frank off to museums and the beach, displaying the unique charm of Los Angeles.

The story encompasses almost a year and through a series of vignettes Johnson takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. I would find myself laughing in one chapter and then on the brink of tears in the next.

There is no doubt that Frank is the star of this story. He is a captivating nine-year-old boy who prefers to dress more like Frank Sinatra and Albert Einstein than in a t-shirt and jeans.

He’s a refreshing character. He’s a unique character. He’s a character with an old spirit.

If I had to describe this book I would have to say that it is a bit like The Nanny Diaries mixed with a touch of The Devil Wears Prada and just the smallest, smallest sprinkling of David Duchovny in Californication (if Hank Moody was a musician and not a writer).

Still, even in seeing those influences there is a depth to all of the characters that slowly unfolds like a blooming onion.

Johnson writes with a frank (pun intended) humor that is hard to miss, but plays out beautifully in counterpoint to the more serious and sullen backstories of her characters.

In the end, the only anger I had towards the book was that it sat on my nightstand some nights untouched. Not because I didn’t love it but because I would get so engrossed in it that I wouldn’t want to put it down.

There is one night where I stayed up until 4am reading this book, another night until 2am. Both these instances say great things about the book, but did little to improve my mood the next day.

I couldn’t imagine changing anything about this book, so it has earned this rating! It’s exciting debut from Julia Claiborne Johnson and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Final Rating: 5 Stars

Be Frank With Me is now available for purchase. You can purchase a copy through your local independent bookseller, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Published by Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser is a fiction writer and essayist. She is an associate editor at Tell-Tale TV, where she writes about all things tv. She has had fiction appear in five : 2 : one magazine’s #thesideshow and her nonfiction has appeared in Bitch Media and The Hartford Courant. You can find her talking about tv, film, and knitting on Twitter @LaurenBusser.

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