Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ARC Review: City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino

City of Angels
Author: Kristi Belcamino
Publication: Polis Books (May 18, 2017)

Description: Nikki Black, a self-imposed lone wolf since her mother died, fled suburban Chicago to escape her painful past. But when her so-called boyfriend reveals why he really lured her to Southern California, she ends up on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back and a destitute twelve-year-old named Rain following in her shadows. The girls seek refuge at a residential hotel above a punk rock bar in downtown L.A. a few months before the city erupts into chaos during the 1992 riots. At The American Hotel, Nikki makes friends and, for the first time in years, feels as if she has a real family again. But everything changes when Rain disappears. Everyone believes Rain succumbed to the seductive allure of addiction and life on the streets. Determined to find Rain, Nikki burrows deeper into the underbelly of a city that hides a darkness beneath the glamour. And when she unveils a sinister cover-up by a powerful group that secretly controls the city of angels, she could lose everything, including her life. City of Angels is an edgy, gritty, mature Young Adult mystery about a young woman's struggle to not only belong ― but survive.

My Thoughts: CITY OF ANGELS tells an interesting story about a complex time in American history. Nikki Black has fled to southern California after her mother's death and her father's self-destruction. She finds herself in Los Angeles alone just in time for the LA riots that followed the Rodney King verdict in 1992. The story tells what life is like for a runaway with no friends.

Nikki finds herself staying in the American Hotel with a bunch of other young misfits. Since Nikki fled a creepy boyfriend and a movie producer who makes child porn with twelve-year-old Rain, she has to be careful that they don't find her. Rain is drug-addicted like Nikki's mother was and also being groomed by a child predator. When Rain disappears one night, Nikki is sure that she has been sucked back into the world the two recently escaped.

Nikki begins an investigation fueled by her own guilt at not being able to save Rain or her mother that has her looking at a new creepy church and the world of child porn. She is assisted by the motley crew that has become her family.

The mystery aspect of the story was engaging and well thought out. The problems I had with the story centered on two things. First, most of the characters were stereotypes: the happy-go-lucky gay character who just learns he's HIV positive, the former cover model who lost it all because of drugs and is just getting her life back in order, the multiracial couple, the musician with the string of girls and his own hidden guilt. Second, Nikki herself seemed much older and much more self-aware than any seventeen-year-old.

Fans of the time period and fans of teens forging their own futures will enjoy this one.

Favorite Quote:
Seeing their faces raptly watching me, I felt like I didn't need my leather jacket or my combat boots to be tough. I could reach down deep inside and find the strength I needed already there. And the best part of all was the realization that when I made myself vulnerable and turned to others for help, I was stronger and more powerful than I had ever been on my own.
I received this one for review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

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