‘Be Frank with Me’ Extract + Review

Check out a review for LA writer Julia Clairborne Johnson’s debut, Be Frank with Me. It’s described as a fresh, fun, and sharp novel that has all the humour and warmth of The Rosie Project! Dip in for a taste and read an extract here.

Be Frank With Me

This is an odd little book about an odd little boy. Frank, is the son of a reclusive Los Angeles-based author, Mimi Banning, who has not had anything published for decades.

She had a huge hit with her only novel, but she’s now flat broke after unwise investments, so needs to write another novel – quickly. Her New York publisher despatches an assistant, Alice, to look after Frank and the household while Mimi writes.

Frank is obviously very intelligent, absorbing facts like a sponge, and he’s eager to share them. He also likes to dress like the actors in the 1930s movies he loves, so he has little in common with other children his age. He’s nine – going on 40.

While Frank is never described as having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or being somewhere on the autism spectrum, all the evidence points to something like that. He has rules about not being touched and having any of his things touched. If displeased, he lies as flat and unresponsive as a plank of wood. His psychiatrist tries to teach him how to read other people’s emotions via facial expressions. He hardly sleeps and he has no qualms about going through Alice’s personal belongings and reading her journal. So his behaviour can be infuriating, puzzling and yet heartbreaking, as Alice worries about how he copes with the world.

Mimi and Frank have managed to live very insular lives, shopping only by computer and making sure Mimi’s fans – or ‘fanatics’, as Frank titles them – do not intrude past the garden wall.

Alice has many questions about the household, most of which are answered by the time the novel ends, but what lies ahead for Frank?

A Good Read Corvus $27.99

Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville

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