A Good Bad Boy: Luke Perry and How a Generation Grew Up

S. & S. Mar. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9781668006269. $28.99. BIOG
Novelist and arts writer Wappler’s (Neon Green) biography of actor Luke Perry (1966–2019) coincides with the five-year anniversary of the actor’s death from a stroke. He was best known as brooding Dylan McKay on the ’90s hit drama Beverly Hills, 90210, where his James Dean–esque pompadour and furrowed brow made him a heartthrob and a breakout star. But Perry, who was born in Mansfield, OH, maintained that his humble Midwestern roots kept him from taking fame too seriously. His work ethic, acting talent, and kindness earned him respect on the sets of TV shows (Jeremiah; Oz; Riverdale) and films, such as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was his last role. Wappler acknowledges that Perry’s immediate family members declined to participate in the creation of this biography, which also made it hard for her to secure interviews with his fellow 90210 actors. Instead, she unconventionally intersperses vignettes from her own life throughout—in third person, which may confuse some readers—as she reflects on how Beverly Hills, 90210 offered her a momentary escape from the illness and death of her father when she was 15. The birth of Wappler’s son juxtaposed against Perry’s death is particularly poignant.
VERDICT A satisfying portrait of Luke Perry that’s presented as a hybrid narrative.
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