Book Review: Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams by Brent Hartinger



“There was no way moving to Los Angeles was going to make me give up my soul. After all, I’d already seen all the movies about Hollywood. I knew how things worked.”

Twenty-four year-old Russel Middebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter.

Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel’s Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it’s downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbour, doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?

My thoughts:

It’s definitely great to be back with Russel and Kevin. Even if it is among the crazy asshole drivers and never ending traffic of Los Angeles. But this book isn’t my favourite of the new trilogy. That honour still belongs to TTIDKIDK.

BITCOBD read like a wave to me: alternating highs and lows. But that was just me and I know exactly why. With this book taking place in Los Angeles there is a lot of potential for movie references. The Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, et cetera et cetera. I know Brent Hartinger loves movies, but there were just too many movie references throughout the book that it felt more like personal geeking out than relevant to what was going on. Someone who likes movies would definitely appreciate these references but with me not being much of a fan of movies, most of these flew way over my head.

Of course, the book tells Russel’s story as he aims to be a screenwriter and we get a lot of insight behind the scenes of the movie making process. That was definitely interesting but it was very easy for me to zone out of all the movie jargon. On the other hand I liked the way the plot was done. It was definitely an interesting choice to have an older, seasoned producer in Mr Brander (who was nowhere near as enjoyable as Vernie was in TTIDKIDK) and the way the plot turned out was definitely satisfactory.

On the topic of making movies, we were reintroduced to an old friend in the business. Otto is Russel’s ex-boyfriend and one of my favorite characters from the YA series so seeing him aged up was a real positive. Otto’s storyline in this book was also one of the things I enjoyed and I loved the modernity of it.

When talking about boyfriends in a Russel Middlebrook book it’s a crime to leave out Kevin since they’re the obvious OTP. Unfortunately, I felt like Kevin didn’t have a real part to play in this book. This disappointed me after all that Russel went through in TTIDKIDK to get him in the first place. Sure Kevin was around and they had some really nice scenes together but what did he do to push the story along?

BITCOBD had its own characters with their own small stories who I thought were sometimes more interesting than the movie making plot. Regina and Gina, Russel and Kevin’s neighbours, definitely had the more enjoyable subplot than Daniel and Zoe’s, a different set of neighbours. Even now, I’m still mulling over the conclusion to the siblings’ storyline and how I feel about the conclusion.

All things considered, I still enjoyed this instalment in Russel’s life and I’m definitely looking forward to the conclusion to this new adult trilogy after that final chapter.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams comes out on August 14th, 2015. Buy on Amazon

About the Author: (taken from Goodreads)

NEW YORK - MARCH 13:  Brent Hartinger  speaks onstage at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The New York Marriott Marquis on March 13, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – MARCH 13: Brent Hartinger speaks onstage at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The New York Marriott Marquis on March 13, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My latest project is a trilogy of “new adult” novels called Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years. They’re about a gay guy in his twenties, Russel Middlebrook, trying to make sense out of love and life.

The books in Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years are:

* The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (book #1)
* Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (book #2)
* The Road to Amazing (book #3)

I wrote previously about this character in a young adult series called the Russel Middlebrook Series. The first book in that series, my 2003 gay teen novel Geography Club, was adapted as a feature film in 2013, starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky.

In order, the books in The Russel Middlebrook Series are:

* Geography Club (book #1)
* The Order of the Poison Oak (book #2)
* Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (book #3)
* The Elephant of Surprise (book #4)
* Two Thousand Pounds Per Square Inch (a free short story)

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