Monday, June 6, 2011

John Belushi Is Dead

John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy Charles
Gallery Books/MTV Books, 2009
309 pages
YA; Contemporary
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Read for YA Overlooked Book Battle.

Hilda and her best friend Benji share a unique fascination with the death of celebrities; whether it's memorabilia once owned by Janye Mansfield or the site of John Belushi's death, they want to see it.  As they live in LA and it's finally summer, they're at their leisure to explore everywhere.  But after barging into Hank's apartment to look at the bathroom where a silent film star killed himself, Hilda begins to rethink their life.  Benji, however, seems intent on moving even farther into the darkest places.

As you can probably tell, this is a pretty dark book filled with tidbits about the deaths of celebrities, apocryphal or not.  I was pretty disgusted with their behavior which is positively ghoulish much of the time.  Hilda is a good narrator, describing how she and Benji were drawn together by their shared fascination when younger.  Hilda has her own dark past due to the death of her parents while she survived.

I was more interested in Hank, the old man she befriends, who has dark secrets in his past and his neighbor Jake, a young screenwriter.  Meeting them and seeing Benji's journey into darkness is what helps Hilda learn more about herself and to begin to rethink her life path.  She doesn't have all of the answers by the end of the book but she's a little bit stronger.

I also enjoyed the references to old Hollywood such as when they view Sunset Boulevard (highly recommended) and Rear Window (not my fave but still good).  Due to my interest in classic movies, I recognized the actors and films mentioned although I realize many in my peer group probably wouldn't.  But most of the references are to 70s-90s singers and actors who died of drug overdoses; their tragedies attract Hilda and Benji's interest.

Overall: Although pretty well-written, the subject matter was too dark for me.

Content: Language; some drugs and sexual content.

Cover: I don't know about the outfit represented by Hilda has pink hair for most of the book so that's appropriate.

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