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Life is Funny

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  884 ratings  ·  87 reviews
E. R. Frank’s seminal first novel weaves together the stories of eleven teenagers in one city over seven years in this groundbreaking and “impressive debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Why does Gingerbread always have a smile on his face? “Because life is funny,” he tells Keisha. But for her—and almost everyone else in her Brooklyn neighborhood—there doesn’t seem t
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 31st 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (first published March 17th 2000)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  884 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teens who breathe, adults who care about them
Recommended to Julia by: ?
Shelves: ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily Goreham
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*CHARACTERS* I would rate the characters a 5. I could imagine what each of them looked like based on how well they were described by Frank. One character Drew was a mexican good looking boy, had green eyes, and was toned. Grace was another main character was a very pretty girl with long blonde hair with fair skin. I enjoyed all the eleven charters. They were all believable because all the things they are going through is possible. They all stay true to them selves, for example, Drew knew he had ...more
Ricardo Lombera
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Life is Funny' by E.R. Frank is about the lives of very diverse eleven teenagers that live in Brooklyn, New York. This book spans to seven years. China is a girl who goes to school with her three best friends, trying to break through their personal struggles. Then, Keisha is a girl who tries to work things out her friends and her friend's boyfriend. There is Sonia, a girl who is trying to be a perfect Muslim girl while adapting to life in a new country. Drew is a boy who is trying to deal with ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not surprised Life is Funny is on the Banned Book list for many schools and some libraries seeing as how it shoves real world problems like abuse, drugs, self harm, suicide, racism, and poverty straight in the reader's face.... and the majority of the POVs are from minorities standpoint.
Wouldn't want anyone developing compassion and empathy for the kids from the wrong side of the tracks, now would we?
Mel Raschke
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brillant YA Debut novel. The interesting part is when the author weaves those characters together and allows the plot to continue to unfold.
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-reviewed
This book settled right into my soul. It tells the story of eleven different teenagers whose lives drape over each other to various degrees, but what makes the book so captivating is that each teenager's story stands on its own, and contains characters that feel real and whole, facing problems that are all too prevalent in our world. It's sad to think that a book about domestic violence, drug abuse, neglect, teen pregnancy, cutting, poverty or foster care could be seen as contrived or overdone, ...more
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so much, I honestly think its my favorite. I related to the characters so much. I would sit in my room and cry while reading this book. It filled me with so many emotions, I could be leaping throw a field of dandelions at one moment in my head and then preparing myself to jump off an 200 story building the next moment in head. Each character has a lesson for every single teenager in this world, varying in religions, cultures, genders, ages, and family lives. I truly feel as if ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a raw story of 11 teens in Brooklyn during a period of 11 years. It deals with real problems, like drugs, physical and sexual abuse, alcohol, sex... I find the book realistic but too much to be considered a read starting in middle school. There is cursing, but my biggest issue is with the very explicit sex scene between teens. I am not a prude, but this is too explicit for that age group. If it wasn’t for that, I’ll consider the book a good picture of today’s realities teens may face tha ...more
Dec 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed this book. It's not well-written, most of the story lines feel unfinished, and the ending isn't satisfying, but I couldn't put it down! I would recommend this book to teenagers. If you enjoy the beauty of language in books, this isn't for you. Read this if you love drama. ...more
Marci Glasgow-Haire
The book was choppy and hard to follow. It left me wondering if today's kids are having to deal with as much drugs, sex, and violence as these characters do. ...more
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elise Jensen
Not sure how I felt about this one really. Around page 60, I said "Yeah, I think I'm not going to continue with this one." But then I woke up in the morning wondering what was going to happen for those kids, so I guess, in any case, she got me to care. It's a quick read. I was done in under 24 hours, but that might be part of why I went back to it after giving up. I knew it wasn't a big time investment.

I didn't love it. That said, the storylines in these books are a million miles from my own ex
I liked the individual stories in this book - but I didn't like that there was no real wrap-up for any of the characters. The reader was introduced to the character, discovered their conflict in life, and then.... Well, there was no and then. ...more
Kemora Johnson
Life is funny is a story about 13 teens struggling to survive in the heart of NYC. This is a reread for me. I read it as a teen and again as an adult I understand why it was one of my favorite books. I highly recommend this.

Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The many stories each have their own complexities and surprises, and they fit together in wholly unexpected ways. I would recommend this for anyone, period.
Taylor Morris
It was a nice peak into the lives of these few teens. While there wasn't a clear beginning, middle and end. It is just a step in the direction of their lives starting to get better ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Every now and then I think of this book, and I love it
Elizabeth Miguel
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Characters:5: The characters were well described in simple terms. in the beginning of the novel, for example China is describing Eric, "I'm guessing he's younger than us, but he's way bigger, and he's real dark, and he doesn't look around or anything. His eyes are set straight ahead, and he walks right by and up to the front-door step and just stands there, waiting"(Frank 3).I thought the description of Eric was exceptional because anyone could understand the way his character is. I did like the ...more
lucky little cat
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first place I ever saw the word "blunt" used for "joint." ...more
Sabrina Llamas
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rate the characters a 5. There are eleven teenagers throughout this book and it would be difficult to keep track of who is who. But Frank makes it easy by being very detailed. Each character has a distinct voice and personality that makes them stand out."'He's got poetry,' I go, all choky. 'He's got mad poetry.'"(Frank). In this quote, Ebony is talking about her crush named Eric. She is the only person who uses this specific grammer. All of the characters are believable. They each have a diffe ...more
This was just "meh" for me, simply put.

I'm going to start with what I did like and why I think this book has some merit in the YA world. This book is extremely realistic. E.R. Frank has done work as a social worker, and it is definitely apparent. Everything about this book was plausible, and I never had a reality check moment, like I tend to have with some YA books. So, if you're looking for some realistic fiction, this is definitely your go-to book.

I also think that given the format of the bo
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book had seriously surprised me to say the least. I was kind of just looking for a random book to read in the library to read, and when I picked this one (admittedly, due to the title alone) I was intrigued, but for some reason I had the feeling I wouldn't like it. But I figured, what the hey, and decided to try it. And soon, I learned how wrong I was.

This book is certainly not for someone who is looking for a happy tale. It deals with a lot of various problems, some of which include: abusi
Dec 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"My professor reads essays out loud in class as examples of what we should be considering when we make our Statue of Liberty visit.

"The essays are full of Family and Freedom. Great-grandparents kissing their own tears into theground, imagining streets paved with gold and opportunity. Persecuted and oppressed great-uncles and aunts rejoicing on crowded boat decks, as the sun rises over Liberty's torch. Dreams coming true.

"'Taking the time to think about where we came from and how we fit into our
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book...until the end. While I understand why Frank wanted to leave loose ends (trying not to spoil it), I felt unfulfilled at the end and had too many lingering questions. Lingering questions can be a great tool, however, with the number of main characters (11) and taking placing over seven years, it is just to general. I felt I needed something, but cannot figure out what. Perhaps answers. Not necessarily about the characters' futures, but at least about some o ...more
Aug 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The author uses the perspectives of several characters to demonstrate the depth of human experience. Readers get to experience the personal thoughts and feelings of each character, and compare these with the ways in which outside characters perceive them. It really makes you think about your own identity, and those qualities you choose to present to the world.

My one disappointment is that I wanted to use this book with my 12th graders, and the sexual parts toward the
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 'Life is Funny', all of the stories Frank has composed have a depressing, gritty feeling to them, yet there is hope in your heart for all of the characters. Tough-talking Monique, who is pregnant by her abusive ex-boyfriend, finds pure, real love with a man named Hector, of whom which she met at the prenatal clinic she attended. Rich-boy Drew denies his father's money and material possessions when he takes a chance to save his mother from getting beaten once more by his father. There's also G ...more
Katie Julcher
"Life Is Funny" shows how a group of totally different teenagers can be linked together in unexpected ways.
The book strips away the defenses of one group of teenagers living in today's world and shows their unbearably real lives. Each section is written with the point of view of a new character, exposing their thoughts and motives that are concealed when we view them from afar in other sections of the book.
Although the book was somewhat confusing because of the different view points, they also
Apr 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen-lit
"I got hyper blood and bad concentration and I got to take my riddle-in every day, but I don't care. I got a crackhead mother somewhere on this earth, or maybe dead, but I don't care because I got my real mama and my real daddy since my little gingerbread face came into this place. My mama is white and my daddy is black, and fools try to make shit out of that, and I don't care." (p. 157)

First-person narratives of eleven characters are woven together to tell a cohesive story about students at a B
Sep 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
This follows the lives of a dozen or so Brooklyn kids over a number of years by focussing on the stories of two kids each "year. It darts in and out of their lives in a way that's both tantalising and frustrating - great because you get immersed in their backgrounds and experiences very vividly during a certain time/incident, but a little distancing because you might not get to revisit that character until a few sections later, and maybe not in the level of detail you want from the earlier setup ...more
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Picked this up off my bookshelf the other day on a whim and re-read it. It's been one of my favorite books of all time since I first read it in junior high, and I wondered how I would feel about it now that I'm halfway through college.

I still love it. It's not so much a novel as a series of short stories, all dealing with kids growing up in New York. ER Frank manages to write about serious issues (teen pregnancy, drug use, sexual abuse, domestic violence, death, poverty) without seeming melodram
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I so did not like this book. 2 28 Aug 17, 2009 11:39AM  

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E. R. Frank is the author of two highly praised novels for Atheneum: America and Friction. Her first novel was Life Is Funny, winner of the Teen People Book Club NEXT Award for YA Fiction and was also a top-ten ALA 2001 Quick Pick.

In addition to being writer, E. R. Frank is also a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. She works with adults and adolescents and specializes in trauma.

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“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
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“Sonia, every dog does not bite, nor does each bee sting. For each schoolmate who insults you, there must be fifty who do not. And for every Muslim terrorist, there are thousands of us who oppose violence. Tell those who are cruel to you that in their cruelty, they are the terror. Then inform them that they are forgiven, for such forgiveness may shame some toward kindness.” 13 likes
“Time is tricky. You have whole months, even years, when nothing changes a speck, when you don’t go anywhere or do anything or think one new thought. And then you can get hit with a day, or an hour, or a half a second when so much happens it’s almost like you got born all over again into some brand-new person you for damn sure never expected to meet.” 12 likes
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