The Prince of Venice Beach, by Blake Nelson (2014)

Mystery (sorta)
The Prince of Venice BeachRobert “Cali” Callahan is 17 years old and technically homeless, though he lives in a treehouse in a generous friend’s backyard at Venice Beach in California. He plays basketball, surfs, chums around with friends, and tries to stay out of trouble by making sure he stays aware of everything and everyone around him. This comes in handy when a private investigator asks him to keep an eye out for a runaway kid. Cali comes through and discovers a way to make a living. He has a sort-of girlfriend who encourages him to start working on his GED, and things are looking up. Until the next job leaves him with a moral dilemma. And the next one. Cali struggles to figure what is the right thing to do. He’s a runaway himself, having escaped the foster system in Nebraska when he was 14. He knows the streets can be mean – he has more than one encounter with the Evil Twins, a couple of local thugs, and his attempt to protect a newbie on the street is truly a sweet touch. While not truly a mystery, it still feels like a private eye series in the making (I hope so! a teen niche that needs filling). It’s not a Newbery contender, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are well-drawn, the plotting is well-paced and realistic, and the dialogue is natural though a bit too clean to be real. While it’s admittedly a romantic portrayal of life on the street for homeless teens, I enjoyed Cali’s character, his emotional swings, and his innate goodness. A hint at more to come at the book’s close leaves me waiting eagerly for a sequel.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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