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BOOK REVIEW: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

| 12 August 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

Simon & Schuster Australia
June 2018
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

General Fiction / Romance / Contemporary


Sometimes love means having to broaden your literary horizons.

Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person will do.

It’s not that she hasn’t tried. She’s the queen of online dating. But enough is enough. Inspired by her job at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment.

Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams.

Enter Sunny, and one spontaneous kiss later, Frankie begins to fall for him. But there’s just one problem – Frankie is strictly a classics kind of gal, and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Like really.

A quirky and uplifting love letter to books, friendship, and soulmates.


Depending on their location, and how often they frequent public transport, readers may or may not be aware of the Books on the Rail program in Australia, through which self-appointed book ninjas can order special stickers and drop their favourite titles off on trains to be discovered by other readers. It’s a fantastic idea to spread the word about great books and, as it turns out, a really interesting idea for an Aussie-based romance specifically for the book-addicted among us. So Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, the creators of Books on the Rail, set out to bring us just such a story.

Despite being populated with characters who at times feel like they’re not so much characters as a group of over the top quirks whose sole purpose is to put Frankie in compromising positions, this is a lot of bookish fun.

She liked to judge a novel purely by its opening sentence, which she and her best friend Cat dubbed a ‘book birth.’ In Emma‘s birth, Austen described Miss Woodhouse as ‘handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition.’ By contrast, the opening sentence of Frankie’s birth was her mother proclaiming, ‘she’s bald and has her father’s big nose.’

Through alternating chapters, readers are witness to the events of Frankie’s desperately single day to day life and the blog posts and book ninja activities these events inspire. She’s scattering all of her favourite books across various forms of Melbourne public transport with her details on the seventh last page in the hopes of finding a bookish kindred spirit to date.

Dating is much like beginning a new book.
First, there’s trepidation. You ask yourself: What am I looking for in a book? What mood am I in? What are my friends reading? Work is picking up, do I really have the capacity to invest in the Wars and Peaces of this world, or should I be looking for something lighter, perhaps a little more The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyesque?

At around the same time, she meets Sunny, a dreamboat who loves young adult books… and Frankie is a total book snob, so she keeps going on dates with the people who find her books because she’s embarrassed by the very idea of young adult books. We all know how that’s going to turn out, right?

Frankie opened her menu and perused the list of cocktails. Gin and Twain, Bloody Jane, Grenadine Brooks, Lady Chatterly’s Loves Aperol, Gone with the Whiskey, Or-well, Better Make it a Double. This Young-Adult-reading man really pulled this one out of the woodwork.
‘Menu looks good, but there’s no The Fault in our Spritz or The Maze Rummer,’ Frankie looked up innocently. ‘Maybe they have a kids’ menu?’
‘So, just a Tequila Smugrise for you, then?’
‘Huh, there’s nothing arrogant about reading the classics!’ Frankie retorted. ‘It’s just common sense.’
‘Okay, Martini bit haughty, what can I get you, then?’ he asked with a cheeky grin.

This would be a great read for fans of books like The Rosie ProjectHappiness For Humans, and Whispers Through a Megaphone.

There were some things that rather annoyed me about the choices made by the characters within this story, especially when it comes to certain characters being particularly hypocritical and judgmental, all while lying to those closest to them. It also takes quite a while for Frankie to grow as a person and show some respect to the people around her. But, to be honest, these are the kind of issues that would make for a much shorter book had they not been present, and they don’t get in the way of the reader’s need to see how it all ends up.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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