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Life Is Funny

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About the Author

E. R. Frank is an author, psychotherapist, and social worker. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Frank attended Vassar College, Hunter Graduate School of Social Work, and New York's Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. She is the author of five novels: Life Is Funny, Dime, America, Wrecked, and Friction. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.


Gr 12 Up-Life is hard, perplexing, and sometimes funny for a diverse group of Brooklyn teenagers in E. R. Frank's novel (DK Children, 2000). Gingerbread was a crack baby and must take Ritalin to control his racing brain, but he has an adopted family that adores him and his life is sunny. Grace struggles with an angry, abusive mother who is jealous of her daughter's beauty and opportunities. Eric's sole desire is to protect his brother, Mickey, from their crackhead mother, and he will steal, cheat, and lie to ensure their survival together. As the years pass, friendships are formed and break apart and a dozen characters' story lines dovetail into each other. Narrator Quincy Tyler Bernstine is especially strong when the story becomes poetic, and her sing-song narration is gentle, soothing, and smooth. Her weakness is not differentiating the dozen points of view by voice. Listeners will struggle to place each character and their story in memory. Some characters come back strong, others slip away and we never hear of them again. Frank's prose is beautifully styled, and her characters are fully formed and interesting. Pervasive street language and graphic sexual situations bump the story up to the most mature teen listeners.-Tricia Melgaard, formerly Broken Arrow Public Schools, Tulsa, OK (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Eleven kids with distinct voices and individual struggles narrate Frank's impressive debut novel, yet each of the interlocking stories springs to life with tender details. The book follows a loosely connected group of Brooklyn students over a seven-year period. The author initially introduces a few characters in a kind of pastiche, then renders them in fuller portraits, such as Keisha, who reveals that her brother is "touching me on my privacy every night" and, in a chapter four years later, experiences a healthy relationship with a peer. Other characters deal with physically abusive or absent parents, an unwanted pregnancy or a friend's suicide, but as the title indicates, each tale is tempered by humor. Readers will empathize with their struggles, but more than that, they will be inspired by the strength of their spirits and their willingness to love. Eric, another character introduced in a kind of broad brushstroke at the beginning, metamorphoses in one of the novel's most memorable stories. His mother is a drug addict, and he becomes the caretaker for his little brother, Mickey ("He tell all the little bugs he see at school he don't need no daddy 'cause he gots me," says Eric). The brothers reappear in the last chapter, narrated by their new foster-sister, Linnette, who calls Eric a "hatchet murder face," intimidated by his bottled-up anger. When he literally reaches out to her at the end, she delicately describes her reaction as "my voice high and melting, my insides all unfrozen." The language is gritty, and some of the story lines will be intense for young readers, but this is ultimately an uplifting book about resilience, loyalty and courage. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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