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The Prince of Venice Beach Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up—Robert Callahan is a 17-year-old runaway. After his father's abandonment and his mother's accidental death early on, he has experienced life as a foster child, being shuttled from one family to the next. Robert finally takes control of his destiny and escapes the harshness of Omaha, Nebraska's social service system by running away to the streets of Venice Beach, California. He's a little luckier than most runaways—instead of sleeping in alleyways and digging in garbage for food, Robert has the support of Hope Stillwell, a Venice Beach resident who allows the teen access to her home and lets him live in a tree house in her backyard. Soon, Robert's cop friend, Detective Mitchell, refers him to a private investigator trying to locate a wealthy young San Francisco runaway. After Robert helps in a successful rescue, more referrals begin to come his way, but all of them are not from the friendly detective, and all of them do not necessarily end as happily. With each new investigation Robert takes on, he is faced with new life experiences and eye-opening self-evaluations, which have him pondering the future for the first time in his life. Up until this point, Robert's kept his existence under the radar to avoid detection by authorities. Now he's thinking of a future in private investigations—with business cards and all—but, most importantly, he realizes the need to further his education and to interact more extensively with society at large. Readers will anxiously follow Robert's adolescent journey of growth in this coming-of-age novel filled with exhilarating chases and heart pounding moments.—Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

From Booklist

Robert “Cali” Callahan is a 17-year-old runaway living on the streets of Venice Beach, surfing, playing basketball, and spending his nights in the tree house of a well-meaning local woman. Cali has a reputation of being the guy who can find anyone for a little cash, so when he is approached to help locate Reese Abernathy, the daughter of a wealthy Silicone Valley financier, he accepts, hoping to turn his side business into a real detective agency. Instead, Reese finds Cali, and after hearing her story, Cali begins to question both the motives of the people trying to find her and his own for accepting the offer. Cali is a dispassionate narrator whose determination to do the right thing without being sure what it is reveals a sensitive, street-smart kid who is, nonetheless, heartbreakingly naive. In a briskly paced novel with a noir sensibilty, Nelson (Recovery Road, 2011) exposes the dangerous reality of life on the streets without overdramatization or sentimentality. Grades 8-11. --Magan Szwarek

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316230480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316230483
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #906,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Blake Nelson grew up in Portland, OR. He began his career writing short humor pieces for Details Magazine.

His first novel GIRL, was serialized in SASSY Magazine and was made into a film starring Dominque Swain, Portia De Rossi and Selma Blaire.

His 2006 novel PARANOID PARK was made into a film by Gus Van Sant.

His newest book THE PRINCE OF VENICE BEACH (Little Brown) was released in June 2014.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
Good characters and a credible story well told.
Ralph G. Bliquez
This is an excellent teen read that reluctant readers may be encouraged to pick up.
For anything more detailed than that, you'll have to read the book!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Kristin Anderson on August 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The latest from contemporary YA powerhouse Blake Nelson is so filled with joy and voice that it's impossible to put down. And I say joy not because it's necessarily a happy story -- some pretty messed up stuff happens in THE PRINCE OF VENICE BEACH. After all, it's about a homeless teen and his street kid pals, solving mysteries and trying to stay out of trouble. The joy comes from Cali, the aforementioned homeless teen, who is perhaps slightly less homeless than usual, since he's taken up residence in a kindly woman's tree house. Cali left home to find a new life. And he has. And he's happy. Especially when word gets out that he knows everyone and everything that happens on Venice Beach, and the local police want him to help in investigations.

It's not long before Cali's reputation gets him involved with private investigators, inspiring him to become a PI himself, and maybe even get his GED. But, he thing is, the PI's he works with don't always tell him what's up with the people they're looking for. He thinks he's doing a good thing, but he isn't so sure when he's asked to track down a runaway girl -- a beautiful girl, who doesn't want to be found, ever, and for possibly good reasons. Cali has to decide what's more important -- his being a PI or this girl's wishes. And he has to figure out if this girl is even telling him the truth.

Blake Nelson's characters are genuine, as gritty and real as the streets they call home. Cali's story manages to shine a light on some of this grit, and find heart-warming truths in these "throwaway" kids -- kids like traumatized, sweet Strawberry and the basketball prodigies with whom Cali spends his afternoons. THE PRINCE OF VENICE BEACH is beautifully written, a great summer read, and a great book for those who'd like to see a little more sand and sun in their noir.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sash & Em: A Tale of Two Bookies on July 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Prince of Venice Beach is a good summertime read but maybe not for the reasons someone would dub a book a “good summertime read”. The setting is Venice Beach, aka beachy Los Angeles, California, which if you’ve ever been there, you know it’s like its own universe – tons of volleyball courts, the promenade, and Muscle Beach. And The Prince of Venice Beach feels like the story was just plucked right out of the setting. It feels so real – and gritty.

The life of a runaway kid isn’t glamorous and this book doesn’t look at life on the streets with rose colored glasses; I’m glad for that because it makes me scared for these kids (which people should be!). Each of these runaways have their own story of how they ended up in their current situations, though some are more mysterious than others. It’s heartbreaking.

I’m also glad that Cali isn’t just a beach bum who wanted to just hang out on the beach and get by. He wants more from life – a GED and a career for starters. The private investigating part of the book is good and I love his ethical conflict/struggle. Can you do something for someone you don’t know – no questions asked – for cash? It’s hard to say when you’re on the street.

Not what I consider a “light read”, with a character who reminded me so much of Alaska from John Green’s Looking for Alaska, I’d recommend The Prince of Venice Beach to YA fans who can handle the non-fluffy side of contemporary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Southwest Georgia Regional Library System - Region on August 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I added this to our YA collection. It has a great male protagonist, attracting both male and female readers. I loved the story and the writing style of Mr. Nelson. I highly recommend you add this to your library collection. I hope we hear more from the Prince of Venice Beach. Carole Albyn, Youth Services and Community Relations Librarian, Southwest Georgia Regional Library
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Format: Hardcover

Robert "Cali" Callahan is one of the most engaging narrators that I've read in contemporary fiction in quite some time. He has a no-holds barred attitude to his life on the streets, but he shares his experiences and observations in a way that will make the reader realize that this is also a young man with an insatiable curiosity for life.

Even when Cali runs into obstacles, he approaches them with a degree of teenaged optimism and bluntness - a certain awkward date comes to mind - that will engage readers, and make them root for him, regardless of what he's doing.

There are a number of memorable and well-drawn secondary characters as well. Even though many of these characters come in and out of Cali's story, I definitely think that they leave their mark on both Cali and the reader.


One of the biggest strengths of The Prince of Venice Beach, is how subtly Nelson incorporates Cali's coming-of-age story. When we first meet him, Cali's a fairly ordinary - if not innately talented - teen living on the streets of Venice Beach.

However, as the story progresses and Cali is drawn into his missing teenager case, we begin to see how the people that he meet and the encounters that he has, begin to influence his dreams and aspirations. Cali begins to hope for something different and concrete for his future, a desire which is beautifully emphasized by Nelson's careful attention to the writing, plotting and dialogue.

The way that Cali goes about gradually achieving his objective is just straight out aspiring, as well. Nelson makes it clear that for Cali and people like Cali, it's never too late to achieve what you aspire to be. Where there's a will, there is most definitely a way.
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