'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 9 September 2011

Review: Hollywood Ending

The American title for this book is John Belushi is Dead and I must confess, that title is the reason why I needed to read this book. I am a massive John Belushi fan. Yes, I know that this seems quite macabe on my part (with that title and all) but I was very curious to see why a YA book was mentioning John Belushi. Would it’s audience even be aware who he was?

Pink haired Hilda, the tragic girl whose parents had died suddenly in a card accident, and Benji, quiet and mopey, became friends over the death of a cat. Hit by a car and thrown into a dumpster, the teens take the cat out and return it to it’s owner so they can bury it. However it is not the good deed it sounds to be, or it is, but it turns out for them it was more about the thrill they get out of it. It is the excitement of the darkness and the stench of death … and so begins the theme of their friendship.

Benji is a troubled rich teen. These words don’t seem right together do they? I must admit the things that Benji comes out with are really quite disturbing and hard to read sometimes although I guess the shock factor you get reading about him is quite appropriate for his character.

Hilda is troubled but for obvious reasons. She was in the car when her parents lives were taken. Forever casting her aside as different or delicate in the eyes of others.

Bound together by their love of the macabre and a fascination of how and where celebrities have died, they are drawn to a run down apartment in Echo Park. Hoping for a peek at the spot where an old Hollywood actor stabbed himself to death with a pair of scissors.

At the apartment they meet crotchety old Hank. Hilda and Hank form a bond and Hilda finds herself visiting Hank more and more. Hank to me is the most interesting character in the book. Hank and the secret he has kept for so many years. I absolutely adored cranky old Hank and was slightly let down by the way his story ended. I felt like there was so much more we could have gotten from Hank.

Then there is Jake, the screenwriter, who lives downstairs from Hank and has quite a peculiar relationship with Hank. As Jake and Hilda see more of each other they find themselves smitten with each other.

I enjoyed the fact that the book dealt with the reality of death and also life. It might seem quite macabre, and it is, but from Hilda’s point of view it actually makes sense and to see her working herself out is quite beautiful.

There is a disturbing scene at the end of the book where Benji and Hilda go to a party at bungalow number 3 of the Chateau Marmont (where John Belushi died). The invitation says ‘Come to a party with the ghost of John Belushi’. I won’t spoil the events that transpire but neither Benji or Hilda will ever be the same.

Unfortunately I did have an issue with the book (and the only book) that was used as a reference for it’s Belushi facts. Wired: The short life and fast times of John Belushi is a book that has been shunned. Family and friends who agreed to be interviewed for this book felt they were exploited and that the book was not an accurate portrayal. To an audience that doesn't really know him, this is the way he is introduced? Although that is keeping with the tone of the story and playing up to the morbid fascination which is a major feature in this book. I am probably being a bit too 'fan-girl' here.

While some of the content was literally hard to stomach and I had issues with certain things. I really loved the characterisation and this book and I should say, I did read the book in one afternoon sitting. I recommend you grab a copy and check it out for yourself.

Title: Hollywood Ending
Author: Kathy Charles
Publisher: Text Publishing, $32.95 RRP
Publication Date: August 09
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921520679

For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult