Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson Book Review

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Be Frank With Me Pinterest Graphic


Hello my beautiful fellow bookworms! It’s time for another book review, originally read and reviewed over on the Whispering Stories Book Blog. Be Frank With Me is definitely a book I’ll be keeping front and centre of my bookcase instead of boxed into storage – it’s so pretty and just seemed to really resonate with me for some reason. Anyhoo – let’s get on with this book review!

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson* immediately stood out with its bright teal cover and simple artwork – I enjoyed the aesthetic and it fits perfectly with the persona of our protagonist Frank, too.

Be Frank With Me is told through the eyes of Alice, a young twenty-something sent to help out at the home of M. M. Branning (Mimi) whilst she knuckles down and writes a sequel to her one hit wonder novel. However, it isn’t just boring house cleaning and upkeep – Alice also has to look after Mimi’s eccentric son, Frank, who is the real star of the book.

Reading this book in the 21st century, it is obvious that Frank has some form of disability or mental health problems. Whilst I’m definitely not an expert, so cannot delve further into this, I enjoy that there is no mention of this throughout the book. Yeah, Frank sees a psychiatrist, but is there an official diagnosis? No. Frank is Frank – the energetic, curious, eccentric, highly intelligent Frank. Frank is very similar to his Uncle Julian – I think this highlights that whilst times may change and we now feel as though we all MUST be diagnosed if we are slightly ‘different’, this has not always been the case. Yes, a diagnosis may help Frank and his family in understanding his actions and controlling his outbursts, but at the end of the day he is still a loved, happy little boy – diagnosed or undiagnosed. Just goes to show that we don’t always necessarily need a ‘label’ for our differences, flaws or issues.


Be Frank With Me Front Cover is teal with black and white capitalised writing Be Frank With Me shot of the open book


Frank is such an intriguing character, that I was eager to continue reading to learn more about him. Some reviews online state that there isn’t much of a plot, and it’s pretty boring. I have to disagree. Yes, this novel isn’t full of action and drama, but the fact that it doesn’t need to be packed to the brim of energetic events shows how strong a novel it is. To some, half a page of factual information was overkill, but in my opinion, without Frank’s monotone fact recital it would be difficult to understand the speed and way in which his mind jumps from one thing to another – one of the key things that make Frank, well, Frank!

The author has managed to portray Frank in a believable manner (I feel the urge to note that I cannot call Frank’s character ‘realistic’ as I don’t know anyone with any similar attributes to compare), and also hits the nail on the head of Alice, too. Xander, on the other hand, I felt difficult to grasp. I didn’t really think he added much to the plot and found his household role difficult to understand. I do get the gut feeling he may have been added in afterwards, in order to get a couple of pages’ worth of romance in the book. Mimi, also, was a strange one – whilst I found her character difficult to understand on paper, I feel as though she would make an excellent character should the novel ever be made into a film. I would LOVE to see this made into a high budget film FYI – J-Law would make a fab Alice!

The only negative I have to say about this book, is that I wasn’t left completely satisfied with the ending. I guess I just wanted it to end differently, although I do like that the storyline is left open – you could very easily write a sequel, as there isn’t any devastating finale or restricted cliff-hanger. I would happily read more books on Frank’s life and would love to see how he ages whilst remaining his eccentric self. There was also a lot of loose ends that I feel need tying up – what happens when Mimi finds out Frank hasn’t been going to school? What happens with the information Alice learned in the Dream Bunker?

Overall, I found this a brilliant read – uplifting yet saddening, the book had me smiling away and on the verge of tears on numerous occasions. My review doesn’t do this book justice at all. All I can say is I highly recommend you pick it up and give it a read. 5/5 from me – and trust me, I don’t give out 5/5’s easily!

I hope you enjoyed reading my book review of Be Frank With Me! If you want to check out what else I’ve been reading, why not have a look at my other book reviews?