Rating: 1-5: 5
What did you like about the book? This compelling young adult mystery novel (nominated for an Edgar Award) introduces Robert “Cali” Callahan, a runaway from the foster system, who thrives on the streets of Venice Beach, CA. It is both fascinating and disturbing to meet Cali and his friends and to witness their daily struggle as street people to stay clothed, fed, bathed, and safe on the fringes of society. Although Cali appears well-grounded and generally optimistic, other characters openly deal with extreme family problems, including alcoholism and mental illness. When Cali helps some local detectives successfully locate several missing people, he realizes he has a knack for this kind of thing and begins to wonder if he might be able to become a private investigator himself. The quality and clarity of the writing make this an excellent choice for reluctant readers and for those readers who are always clamoring for another mystery.
Anything you didn’t like about it? SPOILER: A suicide which happens towards the end of the book will limit the book’s appeal for libraries with immature audiences.
To whom would you recommend this book? Recommend for readers grade 7 and up who enjoy realistic mystery and detective stories and also those who enjoy a narrator who operates successfully far outside “normal” society.
Who should buy this book? Upper middle school and high school libraries as well as public libraries for YA collections.
Where would you shelve it? Shelve in YA Fiction or with Mysteries if using genre shelving.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Mary Melaugh, Marshall Middle School Library, Billerica, MA
Date of review: 5/28/15