Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Blonde of the Joke

Rate this book
"There are three and only three rules for shoplifting," Francie instructed me. From the very first day Val meets the outrageously blond Francie, she realizes that Francie has the gutsy courage and determination Val has always envied. But Francie sees something in Val too—something that Val's never noticed. "You've got that sneaky thing about you," she says. "I bet you have a dark past." And just like that, the blonde and the brunette become partners in crime. Thanks to Francie, Val is suddenly taking risks, taking charge, and taking what she deserves. But as the stakes get higher, Francie and Val find themselves more and more tangled in a thrilling web of love, lies, and shoplifting. Soon it becomes clear that the darkest secrets have yet to be discovered. . . .

272 pages, Hardcover

First published September 2, 2008

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Bennett Madison

8 books144 followers
Bennett Madison is the author of several books for young people, including SEPTEMBER GIRLS and THE BLONDE OF THE JOKE. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
38 (20%)
4 stars
41 (22%)
3 stars
52 (27%)
2 stars
34 (18%)
1 star
21 (11%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for stephanie.
1,103 reviews388 followers
December 9, 2009
i wanted to like this more than i did.

perhaps i missed the major point of the book. but i don't understand val's thought process, and why francie ended up the way she did - val was the one that bought the illusion francie was selling, and i don't think francie was selling it vindictively.

the writing was strong, i definitely knew the characters - i just didn't like them, had a hard time identifying with anything about them, and really not understanding the ending.

these are not girls i would want to know. and i don't think there any moment of redemption, or any feel-good-ness that came out of it.

please, tell me if i'm wrong - i really wanted to like this more!
Profile Image for AquaMoon.
1,492 reviews57 followers
February 16, 2017
Ok. So.

I really loved September Girls. It's one of my Top 10 YA books of the past 5 years.

But I can't say the same for The Blonde of the Joke. I realize that, maybe, the author is trying to poke fun of the whole Magical Life-Changing Friendship trope. But it didn't work for me.

First of all, I didn't much like Val. I got her, kind of. I mean, I'm a short brunette who can pass virtually invisable through life. I get overlooked, passed over, forgotten. All the time. But I don't let it destroy my life or lead me to do things I wouldn't normally do. I've got WAY more self-respect than that. And actually...sometimes going unnoticed is kind of nice. My beef with this character is she was too much of a joiner. She was a freaking pushover who couldn't think for herself and allowed herself to be peer pressured into illegal activities just because she wanted this new so-called "friend" to accept her and continue hanging out with her or whatever (News Flash: If a Friend is trying to get you to do things that go against your moral and/or ethical code, they're not really your friend. Get a clue. Gosh!). And I didn't like the way she betrayed Francie in the end. No matter what Francie did or Val thought she did, that was NOT cool. Watching her self-destruct over the course of the story made me cringe.

And Francie? She seemed more a stereotype, more a caricature, than an actual person. She was materialistic. Seemed she believed that by acquiring (stolen) stuff she could somehow complete an aspect of her life/personality that was lacking...or missing altogetgher. It was pitible. No...wait. It was just pathetic.

I wanted the characters to grow. To become better people. That didn't happen.

So this book was kind of a fail for me. I'll just attribute this to it being one of the author's early works when his writing chops weren't quite up to par.
Profile Image for Rachael.
611 reviews47 followers
July 21, 2008
Before Francie Knight comes along, Valentina is pretty much a nothing. She has no more friends since they all moved away. Francie and Valentina seem to be total opposites; Francie is the big-haired blonde, the girl that catches everyone’s attention, but Val is the brunette, the quiet one that fades into the background. They would make the most unlikely duo. However, the day that Francie calls out Val’s name in the mall, Val knows her life will never be the same. And it isn’t. The two new friends team up to shoplift, a new skill for Val but an old one for Francie. According to Francie, they don’t steal because they want something, but because it already belongs to them. But a talent for shoplifting and Francie’s unpredictable attitude change Val and leaves the reader thinking, who really is the blonde of the joke?

The Blonde of the Joke was a funny and impressive novel. Francie isn’t completely likable because of all the lies she tells and just how she comes off as a jerk. As the novel progresses, though, cracks begin to show in her pretty mask, and Val begins to see that Francie really isn’t such a great person. I didn’t really like Val that much either. At first, she was a loner who basically pitied herself all the time; then she became slightly more likable when she became friends with Francie. However, in the end, Val turned out to be worse than Francie. Even though I didn’t like the characters, I really loved the story. Throughout the novel, there’s this constant wanting for more that both friends feel. It’s so strong that it almost takes over their lives, but while one of the them learns that she can’t depend on shoplifting, the other gets caught.

The Blonde of the Joke is actually pretty confusing, but one of the messages is pretty clear: sometimes, the only person you can depend on is yourself. I recommend this novel for people looking for a though-provoking read. The Blonde of the Joke will be released from HarperTeen in early September.

reposted from http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books489 followers
November 16, 2012
Reviewed by Breanna F. for TeensReadToo.com

Valentina has had friends throughout the years. But they all just seem to fade out and then she's left by herself again. She spends her time at the mall, hoping that one day something there will change her life. And what do you know, it actually happens.

While she's browsing the racks at the Wet Seal, Francie Knight taps on her shoulder. Francie is a very provocative girl in Val's class who has been seen around campus wearing the "raincoat."

Apparently, Francie is a major shoplifter, and soon Val is, too. All the girls ever do is hang out at the mall shoplifting basically whatever they can get their hands on in search of the "Holy Grail" - the one most amazing thing that they have ever seen in their life.

When Val isn't with Francie, she's worrying about her older brother, Jesse, who is mysteriously dying. Val has never really understood why he is, but apparently it's going to happen someday soon. She's also starting to mess around a bit (behind Francie's back) with the very attractive boy that the girls met at the mall one day.

Francie also deals with her own problems involving her basically psychotic mother, who randomly disappears, and when Francie finds her she'll end up staying with her grandmother for a week or so while her mom checks herself into the hospital.

Soon Val gets a little tired of Francie's ways and decides she needs to do something. But how drastic will that something be?

THE BLONDE OF THE JOKE is one of those books that's kind of hard to summarize, but I definitely loved it. Francie's character was so out there, and soon Val's character was, too. I also loved the ending of the story, which wasn't too abrupt or unfinished.

All in all, this is a pretty great book. I definitely want to read something else by Bennett Madison now!
Profile Image for Nancy.
473 reviews10 followers
December 3, 2009
The beginning was catchy, but after Val became friends with Francie, things started to get confusing. I didn't really understand the commotion about what an enigma Francie was. I didn't understand how one point, Val needed Francie to keep from losing herself, and vice versa. I definitely didn't understand how Val could have treated Francie like that. I mostly did not get the whole "joke" that Val is trying to tell us. Is it that in the end, Val became the blonde, and Francie the brunette? Cue my confused face here. Second to last, whatever happened to the mean physics teacher? That was so random. And finally, I simply fail to fathom how, after so many shoplifting events, they didn't get caught. Especially Val. I doubt shoplifting came naturally.
Profile Image for Lily.
28 reviews
June 25, 2011
It's scary how emotionaly involve I got in this book. Not even in a fun sort of way, but more like I was looking down upon an awful situation with no way to help. I feel like there's something really deep in this book that I just don't have enough experience tobunserstand. Or maybe it was just written to act like it was smart really wasn't. Either way, I really don't have a legitamte opinion about this book, and I can't pinpoint exacty what made it so strange in the end.
Profile Image for Sara.
2,015 reviews10 followers
September 14, 2010
I really disliked this story - it lacked focus, and too much was unexplained, which made it seem like it was trying to be deep and profound, but felt more like an above-average submission to a high school literary magazine. Also, it was really unbalanced with the especially weird stuff was mixed in with the mundane. I guess I didn't get it.
Profile Image for Shi'Asia.
123 reviews39 followers
December 15, 2011
I didn't understand the book very much at all. The plot wasn't very real and the charcters weren't that great themselves. After I finished the book I questioned why I read it, not a good book at all.The ending wasn't very good at all and nothing was answered when it was over.
Profile Image for Linfer.
62 reviews
September 13, 2015
What's up with the constant slut-shaming + completely random homophobic remarks? September Girls was so good, but despite this being a great story those things above made me way too uncomfortable to finish it.
Profile Image for Andra.
73 reviews17 followers
September 7, 2012
odd...i liked it...but there was something missing
Profile Image for Nicole.
94 reviews
March 31, 2013
"Ima tell you a joke. Get ready to laugh; this one's a good one. Kind of long, but funny. Of course, by funny I mean that it's fucking tragic in the end. Bear with me. It's the first day of school, and a blonde walks into a classroom...."

The Blonde of the Joke is about Val, a brunette who became a loner in high school since her friends flew away to different countries; and Francie, a blonde who is attractive and dangerous. She's the type of girl who could easily get what she wants, she's the girl everyone stares at in the hallway and the exact opposite of Val.

One time at the mall, while Val is strolling around, Francie said her name. And in that moment, Val realizes nothing is ever the same. From that moment on, the blonde and the brunette became best of friends and Francie taught Val how to shoplift. As the story progresses, I've observed the change in Val's personality. She became much stronger and more independent while Francie became vulnerable with her stupid lies and "illusions". Thus, Val thinks Francie isn't as great as she thought Francie was. It's like they've switched positions. Now, Val is the one everyone stares in the hallway while Francie stood silent beside the lockers. Francie tried to take back her aura, but Val stole it from her. That "aura" is the Holy Grail (The Most Beautiful Thing)they wanted to find in the mall whenever they go to steal.

There are many vague details here in the book like how did Francie's mom become an alcoholic lady that went bonkers, what illness caused Val's brother's death, what happened to Max? I guess the story more focuses on the things between Val and Francie. This is a great book though. I loved it but I'm giving it a 3-star rating.

Profile Image for Telka.
63 reviews
January 4, 2010
This book was about a girl named Valentina who is very lonely in her life. Her older brother is dying from who knows what, her mother has the most irritable husband, and Val has absolutely no friends. Well, that is until Francie shows up and changes Val's life forever. From being an A+ student to being an F student is quite a lot, and Val knows it. Could it be the prettiness of those enchanting blue eyes, or was it the attractiveness of Francie's hair that sucked Val into the blond world? Francie not only showed Valentina into the life of shoplifting, but showed her was it was like to be so blond.
I can make a text to world connection. For some people this book might've just seemed about two naughty girls who shoplift all the time, but if you really think about it, it wasn't. Throughout the story, you seem to discover that Val hates jokes about blond girls. You also might find it funny that Val is not blond at all. I think that this author was trying to give a message out that a lot of people in this world may take advantage of blond girls, but that in the end, it will be totally different.Or that as much as something might be a funny joke about a blond, it really isn't that hilarious as you think it is.
I rated this book 4 stars. This is because I loved how the author made the book very ironic and not that glamorous.
Profile Image for Nancy.
279 reviews10 followers
November 9, 2009
Val is one of those students at high school who just blends in. She doesn't have any particular friends, she skates by with a B+ average though she could do better; her physics teacher can't even remember her name.

Then Francie joins her class and everything changes. Francie is flamboyant, defiant, she smokes, she's always late to class, her clothing pushes the dress code: she's nowhere in Val's league. But for some reason, she latches onto Val, who is astonished and grateful, and willingly learns to smoke, cut class, and learn the skills of shoplifting from Francie.

Val is even a little bit in love with Francie, although "not in a lesbo way." Homophobia rears its ugly head in this book, with Val, and her brother's ex-girlfriend referring to him as a fag. Fourteen year old Francie sets out to "cure" him by dressing particularly provocatively, and then can't handle it when she gets attention from a group of construction workers.

Fissures start to edge into the friendship, and it all comes crumbling down one day at the mall as Val and Francie realize that their vows to be there for each other can't address the real issues each of them is facing.

An interesting story of a friendship built on lies and fantasies, flawed by homophobia.
Profile Image for Lenore Appelhans.
Author 8 books685 followers
April 11, 2010
Val, a brunette, has always blended in, never stood out. That is until she meets Francie, a seemingly invincible blonde who takes Val under her wing and shows her that life is for the taking.

For a novel about shoplifting, it’s interesting that shoplifting really isn’t the point. Francie teaches Val how to steal, but in the end, it’s not about stealing the insignificant items that they do from the mall – it’s about finding that Holy Grail of theft – stealing an aura.

As Val blossoms (or some might say, self-destructs), Francie starts to fade. It’s a novel about the slipperiness of identity and about betrayal on so many levels. A lot of the details are vague. There’s something wrong with Francie’s mom, Val’s older brother is dying, and a teacher disappears without explanation. But it all fits the mood which is decidedly wistful and melancholic.

A complex, fascinating novel which doesn’t go where you think it will and doesn’t bother tying up loose ends. It definitely makes you think and would make for a great discussion.
Profile Image for Ashley.
99 reviews22 followers
August 10, 2009
Thoughts: I really enjoyed most parts of this novel. In my opinion the swearing was a bit excessive but it was also needed as description in certain parts. The sexual nature of this book leaned a tad toward the creepy side. At sometimes they made the characters sound 13 or 14. I don’t know any 14 year olds who dress so trampy and deal with sexual advances in these ways. The story could have kept my attention a little better if the plot wasn’t so “out there”. Yes shoplifting is at large in teens, but what the hell is with the Holy Grail crap? I have never heard of a teen who shoplifts in search of freaking holy item. Whatever floats your banana boat I guess?

Recommendation: This book could be enjoyed by high school students who don’t mind how out there the plot tended to be. I would say nobody under 14 should read it but in the end it’s up to you or your parents judgment. My 12 year old sister will NOT be reading my copy anytime soon.
Profile Image for Christi.
40 reviews11 followers
July 20, 2010
Summary: Francie Knight has it all: good looks, confidence, and charisma, at least that’s what Valentine Martinez believes. As good-girl Val becomes closer to Francie and her evil ways, Val discovers that not everything is what it appears to be. Val takes up Francie’s false confidence and takes a turn for the worse as she discovers her inner beauty, her self-worth, and the value of friendship and family. In the end, the joke isn’t really that funny and the only person you should depend on is yourself.

Review: The Blonde of the Joke at first appears to be all fluff, but the story delves deep into preconceived notions and misconceptions about character and morals. It is a very honest rendering of teen angst, self-discovery, and coming of age depicted in the real world of family issues, including insanity, death, and instability. Overall, very good, but some parts feel weak, such as Val's brother's death and Francie's demise.
Profile Image for Rachel.
280 reviews
July 20, 2015
honestly as much as i wanted to understand it, i couldnt. I waited and waited to find out wats was wrong with val's brother only to find out no one knows. I waited and waited to find out what the holy grail was only to never find out any more than it was $3.(unless i just missed a paragraph?) I truly wanted to love this book but i couldnt wrap my head around it. i was left with too many questions. (why did max disappear? why did her brother die? what was wrong with everyone in this town?)

One thing that really bothered me was how the narrator kept sliping in and out of reality. just when something added up she would be like "psyc! that never happened". ok so i didnt get the end. maybe i will try again sometime because when Val asked me if i was laughing i want to know why i should have been laughing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mee.
79 reviews
April 23, 2013
This book was very captivating. The author did a good job of describing his characters and telling their stories. I found myself getting curious and wanting to know more and most especially to get answers to all the mystery popping up.

Unfortunately, there were too many loose ends. I was frustrated with some details of the story that was too confusing to get! There was a part in the story wherein the brother returned a box and then he left and suddenly his friend calls and says he died sooooo she can see ghosts now?!What??

There was also a part wherein Nick or Nicky disappeared right in front of Val. Was it in a literal way or just a figure of speech? I was starting to assume that she could interact with ghosts or something.

But whatever. This book's plot was most definitely interesting, and it was enjoyable to read.

-> finished this book under 7 hours. :)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
870 reviews28 followers
August 11, 2010
This book was a little odd for me. The characters were not really very likeable, and the main character, Valentina, spent most of her time in this weird half dream, half reality state to the point where the lines blurred and I couldn't tell what was really happening and what she was dreaming. The story is essentially about two girls who become friends and shoplift together. Francie, the gorgeous blonde who is also a little "off", and Val, who fades into the background more often than not. Francie is a little psycho (as is her mother), and Val's brother is dying (but of what we're not sure.) I didn't hate this book, I mostly just felt like I could've gone without reading it and been okay.
Profile Image for dearlittledeer.
855 reviews4 followers
July 12, 2016
You know how there's that joke about how in some movies (like um You've Got Mail) "New York is almost one of the characters." Well in this book The Mall is a character. This is a story that I think a lot of people would find 'weird.' Also I read some stuff about people thinking the characters were too homophobic and I do think that aspect of the book was a bit off, as well as girls calling each other the 'p' word, which I have never heard in real life. But Bennett Madison has a great style. I kind of think of this book as a painting. It is both beautiful and ugly, depending on the lighting.
Profile Image for Jean.
509 reviews5 followers
September 7, 2009
This book was hard to classify. I can't say that I liked it. But I was impressed by it. And there isn't a category for that. The characters aren't always likable, but they are kids that you feel some sympathy for. I was curious about Val's obvious lack of connection with her own family. Except for her mysterious brother, they don't play much of a role in her life. But Francie's mother is a central figure in her life, someone she must protect but someone she tries to escape from as well. A curious book. Not what I expected.
17 reviews
August 17, 2013
I randomly picked this book off a shelf at the library when my mom told me I had to read this summer. It was a decent/good book but I had not realized it would be entirely about shoplifting. hahahaha. it wasn't ever boring and it was funny sometimes. I liked the character Max and am sad about how Val ends up alone, just a shadow. The very last chapter only ends in "well? Are you laughing yet?" and I thought lol at the fact that a whole chapter is only 5 words but I like that the ending related to the overall theme of blonde jokes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Melissa.
Author 12 books454 followers
November 4, 2009
The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison (HarperTeen, $17). Val is one of those girls who's easily led. Francie is one of those girls who leads with ease. Watching their magical friendship develop against the bland backdrop of a suburban shopping center is a total delight. They turn palming lip gloss and shoplifting Gap sweaters into an otherworldly accomplishment and the book sparkles with the fantasy of their illusory friendship. I want to hang out at this mall.
8 reviews
May 31, 2012
I read this book when it just came out, so about 4 years ago. I would say that this is one of my favorite books of all time. The story is very confusing and hard to follow, and I'm still not sure if I completely understand it yet. I would recommend this book to anyone, although it seems kind of girly to me. But I was really wondering if any of you guys have read it? And if you have, what did you think?
Profile Image for MaryAnn Harlan.
217 reviews9 followers
July 30, 2008
I have been ruminating on this since I finished (I have to write a review) and I just do not know what to say . . . I love Lulu Dark but this not so much. At one point I was like this kind of Fight Club-ish only with girls shoplifting, hmmmm....... I wish I could put my finger on it but this is a tough one.
Profile Image for Alyson Summer.
2 reviews3 followers
June 2, 2016
I read this book a long while back and have thought about it ever since. The whole thing seemed kind of strange to me and confusing at times. By the end, I was lost. I'm not really sure what the point of the story was and I feel as if I missed something. I plan to read it again at some point and hope that my younger self just missed the point...
99 reviews12 followers
July 4, 2009
Sharp and lyrical, this one stayed with me for days with thought-provoking questions about friendship, love, and identity. Should be an award contender but as I am always wrong about these things it probably won't be.
Profile Image for Adeline.
26 reviews3 followers
October 26, 2009
I related to this book on many levels. Sharp and funny, about frenemies -- and teens trying to find meaning, salvation and power in a mundane world. Which is kind of what being a teenage girl feels like.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.