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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.