book cover for the prince of venice beach by blake nelson

Why in 5: The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson

book cover for the prince of venice beach by blake nelson

The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (twitter | website)
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240 Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: homeless teenager, private detective, teens on the run
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Cali fled to California after running away from his foster home. He lives a quiet life, trying to stay out of trouble and not get sent back home before he turns 18. He has a lot of connections that lead cops and other detectives to hire him on the side to find missing people.

Howdy, friends! Looking for a book that’s flown a little under the radar? I’m here with a “Why in 5” to tell you about The Prince of Venice Beach.

  1. Not a ton of books written from the male POV catch my attention. I’m not sure if that’s because there simply aren’t a lot out there, but they’re so refreshing. Like when I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I was captivated by the unique, gruff voice of the main character, Cali. He’s a runaway who fled the foster care system and relocated to Venice Beach, California. He sleeps in a treehouse, lives minimally, and is off the grid so no one can force him to return to his bad living situation. (My heart for foster care just ached that things could be so bad for a teenager that running away and living with practically nothing would be the better option. That’s not the main focus of this book, but I just needed to point that out.)
  2. Cali’s interests are attention-grabbing, but his protective nature is what really makes him likable. He enjoys playing basketball with a God-loving man named Jojo who will (and does) give someone else in greater need the shoes off his own feet. Jojo could very easily be an NBA player if his life circumstances were different. Cali takes a young runaway, Strawberry, under his wing and tries to keep tabs on her because she seems so fragile and naive. He befriends an awkwardly smart girl, Ailis, who he knows has more-than-friendship feelings for him, but he wants to make sure she’s not alone because her home situation is frightening.
  3. Cali is approached by a man to help investigate the whereabouts of someone he’s looking for. Cali is “in the know” and decides he wants to become a private investigator. He excels at trailing and locating people, but when someone he helps find disappears completely, he becomes conflicted. He’s not given specific information about why he’s finding everyone; he puts up a guard and tries to determine if he’s doing the right thing.
  4. Uncertain of himself, Cali is asked yet again to find someone, a young, rich girl named Reese, who has taken off. His internal conflict intensifies when he finds her and she explains why she’s on the run; her father is providing a completely different story. Which is true? This could mean a life of freedom for Reese or extreme circumstances if he believes her father. Wrapped up in the middle of the tangled web, Cali finds himself unsure of what to do.
  5. Cali’s story is unique because his perspective and life-outlook is so different than anything else I’ve read. The story slowly builds to become something much darker and deeper than I expected. The Prince of Venice Beach touches on a lot of great discussion topics: Can Cali fight to make something of himself? Is a good-paying job worth the risk if it means doing something you don’t believe is right? What happens when someone you care about gets wrapped up in the chaos?

Definitely pick up The Prince of Venice Beach if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path than your usual YA contemporary reads. Cali’s a character worth taking a chance on. rather be reading borrow from the library icon

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Estelle: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

Crash Into You by Katie McGarryCrash Into You by Katie McGarry ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 11/26/2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 474
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: parents, cars, foster children
Format read: ARC borrowed from Cassie. (Thanks!)
RBR reviews of Katie McGarry books: Pushing the Limits | Dare You To

Summary: With Noah doing his own thing and Beth pretty much out of the picture, Isaiah needs to get his stuff together. With a job opportunity on the horizon, he decides to jump into car racing so he doesn’t have to go back to living with his foster parents. That decision brings good along with the bad. Good? Rachel. Pretty Rachel who knows how to speak car. Bad? A debt they both have to pay back and only six weeks to do it. A strange partnership for sure, peppered with attraction, a certain level of defiance on Rachel’s end, and a lot of unknowns.

I love that Katie McGarry is an author who makes almost 500 pages go by in a snap.

Because I can never just stop reading. Forget the bookmarks; her character development and the chemistry, time and time again, suck me in and keep me invested until the very end. Her latest, Crash Into You, is no different and the most unbelievable thing? I never feel too connected to the supporting characters that she shifts to the limelight in each of her volumes. But she changed my mind with Beth in Dare You To, and I swear I will never doubt her again because I really enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of Isaiah.

With Noah preoccupied with Echo and Beth’s non-reciprocated feelings, he’s sort of on his own all of a sudden except his life is actually brimming with possibilities. He just doesn’t know what to do with them. For the first time ever Isaiah has the chance to learn about his past from the biological mom who is making an effort to be a part of his life; on the flip side, he can also secure a future! With a test and an internship. But with all this new territory becomes securing where he lives so he doesn’t have to move back in with his foster parents, and this is were drag racing comes in. Security!

Yet another reason why I love McGarry. Her characters have so much dimension, especially when you are willing to look past how they look or how much money they may or may not have. This is a lesson that the characters within the story have to learn too. Isaiah isn’t a hoodlum just because he has tattoos and works with cars, and in turn, our sparkly new character, Rachel, doesn’t have a perfect life despite her supportive family, gorgeous house, and private education.

Instead she is totally anxiety ridden, smothered by her brothers, and the poster child for the dead sister she never got to meet. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character who suffered panic attacks quite like Rachel did in Crash. They were full on terrifying, but when they are caused by your family… how do you find the strength to stand up for yourself?

Isaiah and Rachel are each at their own strange crossroads when they meet, and become an unlikely team when a night of car racing results in a huge debt that the two must pay off in six weeks.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know an inkling about cars but I loved this was a passion that Rachel and Isaiah shared. I loved that it brought them together, and put them in a position to help out and improve the messy areas of each other’s lives. Sure, there is a push and pull here. (Mostly from Isaiah who doesn’t want to “corrupt” Rachel.) But I liked this wariness between them. Rachel was less experienced than Isaiah and neither of them felt pressured to move too fast with one another. I respected their restraint, and the baby steps it took for them to trust and support one another.

More than anything, I love that McGarry once again drives home how the strength of a family is not measured by blood. She brings so much to light when it comes to children in the foster system, as well as the indestructible bonds and loyalty that tie these “brothers” and “sisters” together.

Even though Crash Into You  falls into third place as far as this series goes (Dare You To is still number 1) for me, this volume had the guaranteed combination of intrigue, self-discovery, romance, and friendship that I’ve come to expect from McGarry’s work and I can’t wait for more.

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