4 out of 4 stars
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Hollywood Riptide by Joseph Sciuto lives up to its namesake in every sense of the word as the story plunges you into the deep waters of 1980s Hollywood where conflicting desires and characters will collide headfirst in the most unexpected of ways. The novel opens with a glimpse of Nick Caggiano, a sweet, aspiring writer from the Bronx who is just trying to make it in Los Angeles while holding on to his morals and Catholic faith. Things start to spiral out of control after he encounters the troubled Nicole Weiss, a 21-year-old beauty with endless money and drugs and a whole past’s worth of trauma. The two head into a whirlwind of passion and instability as they navigate the turbulent ocean that is their relationship.
While this may sound like the traditional ‘good boy meets bad girl story,’ it is much more than that. The book delves into the worst parts of Hollywood culture, including sexual abuse and drug addiction. Additionally, readers are privy to many characters’ perspectives, including that of Nicole’s father, a former soldier and current movie industry tycoon, Richard Weiss. Apart from his thoughts on and reactions to his daughter’s rash behavior and harmful decisions, Richard brings the realities of WWII, and war in general, to light. As the book develops, other soldiers’ stories begin to shine through as well, adding yet another layer to this unique novel.
One of the things I liked most about this book was that it gave me many intense emotions while reading it, even if those emotions were largely anger, disgust and frustration. I’ve always stood by the idea that a novel should make you feel something strongly, and this one did just that. I appreciated that the story didn’t shy away from difficult subjects but rather attempted to portray the darker moments in an honest way. The novel itself was well-written, with but a few unobtrusive typos.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars because I think it successfully reveals a story that, while so unlike anything most of us will ever experience, gives us insight into Hollywood in the 1980s (and today, in my opinion). As for the type of reader this book will appeal to, please note that there is a high level of graphic adult content related to abuse, sex and drugs. A large portion of the book is dialogue between Nick and Nicole interspersed with long scenes from the past and some looks at the lives of the other characters. I felt that these many fast-paced dialogue scenes echoed the drug-addled minds and unstable feelings of the characters, but do keep it in mind when wondering if this is stylistically the right book for you.
Personally, I enjoyed this rare glimpse into Hollywood and its many victims and villains, but also into the lives of people who have endured far too much. I believe Sciuto did his homework on the subject and has presented an accurate portrayal of the times and themes. Interestingly enough, I believe the content and style of Hollywood Riptide would do well if turned into a screenplay—though perhaps that’s just the theme making me biased—and I would love to see it as a movie someday!
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