“A fast-paced mystery that will keep readers anticipating what the heroine will encounter next…(an) entertaining mystery with a convincing portrayal of the dangers associated with young people trying to survive on their own.”
“Belcamino offers detailed characterization, particularly Nikki, who is feisty and determined to make her own way. Readers who enjoy a breathless pace and gritty, noirlike atmosphere will find plenty to like here.”
Nikki Black, 18, 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 — to star in child porn flicks — she ends up on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back and a fourteen-year-old addict named Rain trailing 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.
All that changes when Rain disappears. Everyone except Nikki, including the police, thinks Rain succumbed to the seductive allure of addiction and life on the streets. Nikki finds herself fighting for her own life the closer she gets to unveiling a sinister cover-up by a powerful group that secretly controls the city of angels. City of Angels is an edgy, gritty, mature YA mystery about a teenager’s struggle to not only belong — but survive. It comes out May 9. You can pre-order it here!
YAY! Kirkus Reviews LIKES my book!
Belcamino sets a coming-of-age mystery against the backdrop of the Rodney King case.
With a dead mother and a father who blames her for it, Veronica Black doesn’t have much going for her at home. When her boyfriend lures her from her Chicago suburb to LA and tries to force her into the child-porn industry, the white 17-year-old finds herself on the run from some very dangerous men. Along the way, she rescues Rain, a 12-year-old runaway, also white, from the same horror. The two find refuge and a multicultural band of friends at the American Hotel, but their newfound peace is shattered when Rain is kidnapped. Determined to find Rain at all costs, Veronica plunges into LA’s dark underbelly, where she encounters an enemy more powerful than she imagined. Peeking through Veronica’s narrative are snippets of the Rodney King case. As tensions rise in the city, ready to erupt, Veronica finds herself in a number of circumstances that force her to think about race and privilege. While Veronica’s introspection only grazes the surface of these topics, she is a well-rounded character who will have readers rooting for her. Belcamino also does an excellent job of fleshing out the novel’s side characters with distinct personalities and some interesting back stories.
With a strong female protagonist who won’t stop fighting, this page-turner is a delightful and gripping read. (Historical thriller. 14-18)
So thrilled by this Crimespree Magazine review:
“Nikki” Black, a 17-year-old runaway, escaped from a bad home situation in the Midwest, to an even worse situation in L.A. When the book opens, Nikki’s new “boyfriend” is attempting to force her into the porn industry. With a little luck and some steel toed boots, Nikki escapes, taking a 12-year-old named Rain with her. When Nikki suggests that they find a cop to help Rain, the girl takes off. Now alone on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back, Nikki finds herself at the American Hotel. A kind bartender sets her up with a room above the bar, and a waitressing gig at a Mexican restaurant down the street.
Nikki hasn’t forgotten Rain, and keeps an eye out for her. She eventually catches up with Rain and finds that the young girl is hooked on heroin. With the help of her new friends at the hotel, they get Rain off the drugs, but they can’t keep her safe from the black limo that patrols the neighborhood looking for her. When Rain does get snatched, no one believes Nikki, but Nikki can’t let it go. She begins investigating who wanted to kidnap a young homeless addict off the streets. People connected with her investigation start turning up dead, and Nikki and her friends must come up with a plan to save Rain. But first, they need to survive the riots that are setting the city on fire.
What a great read. Nikki Black has a sad and compelling backstory, but she is a determined and fierce protagonist which makes her an absolute pleasure to spend time with. I enjoyed watching her grow and develop over the course of the novel. And the secondary characters are well-drawn and compelling as well—every character at the hotel is equally fascinating and adds life and color to the story. The setting and time period are also pitch perfect—LA during the riots was a scary but fascinating time, and it provides a strong backdrop for the mystery Nikki is investigating.
Erica Ruth Neubauer
City of Angels features hot-button topics such as HIV, the sexual exploitation of children, and rape juxtaposed with less global – though no less complex – personal struggles like guilt, failure, and ultimately redemption. With her Gabriella Giovanni series, Kristi Belcamino has proven that she can weave topical issues into a story full of heart without losing the momentum of an exciting plot. She does the same here with City of Angels, never losing sight of the fact that the core audience for this particular novel is younger and in many ways, more impressionable. City of Angels will appeal to the young and those of us who were young at some point – yes, that means it is a book for everyone.
“It’s 1992, and 17-year-old Nikki Black departs Chicago for Los Angeles with her boyfriend, Chad, her camera, and not much else. She leaves behind a dead mother and an indifferent father, and hopes to become a photography intern. Unfortunately for Nikki, Chad’s “contacts” turn out to be a pornography director, and she escapes, simultaneously rescuing Rain, a 12-year-old girl caught up in the same predicament. When they get to downtown L.A., Nikki lucks into a room at the American Hotel and a job as a waitress, but Rain disappears, and with the help of the caring people on her floor, she combs the city for her friend. … crammed with twists and turns involving a sinister cultlike celebrity church, pornography, murder, and the Rodney King riots, Belcamino offers detailed characterization, particularly Nikki, who is feisty and determined to make her own way. Readers who enjoy a breathless pace and gritty, noirlike atmosphere will find plenty to like here.” — Donna Scanlon
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL:
“A fast-paced mystery that will keep readers anticipating what the heroine will encounter next. The book takes place in a gritty, dangerous neighborhood in 1990s Los Angeles, set against the backdrop of the Rodney King riots. Nikki Black inhabits a world that includes illegal drugs, child trafficking and pornography, religious cults, homelessness, and violence, all of which are realistically integrated into the setting and plot. The story is told from Nikki’s point of view and is packed with nonstop action as she tries to survive as a young woman in Los Angeles. Readers also get glimpses into her past and the events that led to her mother’s death and the teen’s self-imposed exile from her family. The protagonist’s resilience and her unwavering quest to find Rain, a young runaway, are some of the best aspects of the mystery. … the characters illustrate the extent to which friendships and small kindnesses can be lifesaving for kids on the streets. … Belcamino, author of the “Gabriella Giovanni” adult mystery series, is a former reporter, and her understanding of the problems encountered by runaway youth gives the novel an authentic feel. VERDICT A dark but entertaining mystery with a convincing portrayal of the dangers associated with young people trying to survive on their own. A good choice for older YA readers, especially those who enjoy mysteries.”
“Seventeen-year-old Nikki Black fled the Midwest for L.A., lured by an much older guy who promised her a leg up in Hollywood. Turns out that meant child pornography with a sleazy big-name director; Nikki splits, but not before rescuing 12-year-old Rain from the same fate. The two land at the American Hotel, once home to Charles Bukowski, where Nikki helps Rain kick a heroin habit and slowly befriends the motley crew of musicians, waitresses, and artists living there. Rain doesn’t stick around long, and soon Nikki is embarking on a quest to find her wayward new friend, certain that she has been kidnapped. The plot strains believability once Nikki ties Rain’s disappearance to a Scientology-esque church replete with famous actor acolytes and rumors of murder. The relationships between the well-drawn characters, particularly tough but vulnerable Nikki, are a strong point…”
MY MUSING by Dru Ann Love
A riveting drama. A strongly worded plot that immediately grabbed my attention. This fast-paced drama was visually descriptive and led me to see and feel all that taking place in this action-packed drama. The narrative had me completely immersed in all that was happening, evoking all kinds of emotions that surfaced to the top. The trials and tribulations of Nikki showed determination and guts as she took on what life presented in her path. The author did a great job in telling a captivating tale filled with the tenacity and strength of a young woman and those around her in this tightly woven and intriguing story. This was an engagingly wonderful book.
THE READING ROOM:
The Reading Room by Kathy Reel
“Kristi Belcamino’s writing checks so many boxes that must be right to result in an engaging novel, a novel that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. The characters, beginning with the main character of Nikki, to her floor-mates, to the homeless character of Frank are developed with careful attention to detail. Dress, hairstyle, actions, dialogue, hobbies, dreams of these characters all work cleverly to reveal them and bring them to life. Descriptions of the lay of the land create a visual that ensconces the reader into the story, walking down the streets of a troubled city, with shadows lurking over the shoulder or running on the beach with terror choking you. The plot is always under calculated control and moving forward with seamless transitions. Nikki’s backstory is included in well-paced intervals that don’t distract from the current action.
City of Angels packs a punch with history and issues that will appeal to readers well beyond the teen audience. Those who remember the L.A. Riots, the early days of HIV, and punk rock bands like Nirvana will have an appreciation of their importance. Issues such as child pornography, sex trafficking, homelessness, religious control, and racial profiling are ones that our country has still not dealt with effectively. And, yet, at the heart of this novel is a seventeen-year-old girl who shows what courage, resilience, and resolve the young can hold. Kristi Belcamino is an author who can weave all of those issues and that history and that heart into a compelling story that will take your breath away.”
TEEN LIBRARIAN TOOLBOX:
Teen Librarian Toolbox‘s review on School Library Journal
Belcamino usually writes for adults, and her foray here into YA is good for older readers looking for a little more edge and slightly older characters in their YA books (Rain–who is absent most of the book– and Nikki are younger than the rest of the residents of the hotel). Though at times the plot requires a suspension of disbelief, and Nikki makes some choices that will leave readers shaking their heads, this is a well-paced story full of plenty of action and distinct, diverse characters. Nikki is tough, resourceful, determined, and just the right amounts of naive, sheltered, and foolish. This gritty look at the life of a runaway girl trying to keep off the streets in early 90s L.A. will easily appeal to fans of mysteries and thrillers.
… Setting the climax of City of Angels against the backdrop of the L.A. riots gives the book an added element of momentum and danger. It also provides some great payouts on earlier character investment. By the time the rioting breaks out, I was cheering on Nikki and her friends and gasping in horror when they were put in peril.
In City of Angels, Kristi Belcamino expertly proves that great crime fiction isn’t just for adults. All you need is a cast of fascinating characters, a strong sense of place, and a suspenseful narrative that illustrates that darkness and humanity can be found in the most surprising places and people.
The inimitable Mary Ann Grossman gives some ink – and a hefty chunk of newspaper real estate – to City of Angels. This amazing journalist has been in the trenches at the newspaper since 1961. It’s no understatement to say she kicks ass. Thank you Mary Ann!
ARTICLES WRITTEN BY ME (Blathering):
EARLY REVIEWS ON GOODREADS:
“I loved and thoroughly enjoyed this newest novel by Kristi Belcamino. While it is classified a YA, it is a book for all ages. The story is set in 1992 after the historic Rodney King beating verdict. Veronica “Nikki” Black is a 17 year alone and wandering in Los Angeles until she finds a group of teens living in The American Hotel. As in life, these teens face heartache and drama but throughout it all, they bond together and show the true meaning of family. This story is full of wonderfully developed, very human characters which anyone could relate to. In addition to a bit of history, there is also music throughout which is delightful. City of Angels is a thrilling story about relationships, family, trust and what defines true grit. I have read all and devoured all of Kristi’s other books but this one is unique and extremely heartfelt and gripping. I highly, highly recommend you read City of Angels – you will not be disappointed!”
“Absolutely loved this book! In Veronica “Nikki” Black Kristi Belcamino created a character who is fierce, genuine and good hearted. The kind of girl you want to be friends. City of Angels is a Young Adult novel but a story that adults will love to.”
“This novel will be shelved in YA, but this is an intelligent thriller adults would enjoy. Kristi evokes the 1990 Harry Bosch L.A.. This novel is set during the L.A. Riots of 1992. Historically accurate, issues of time are explored; Child pornography, Homelessness, Religious cults. The central character Nikki’s journey of self discovery is well developed. My favorite character was Ernie an L.A. policeman with a minor but significant role. In summary, Kristi’s 1st (but hopefully not her last) YA novel is well worth reading. I am confident when YA Edgars are announced in January 2018 this novel will be short listed for an award”
“Let me start by saying that I am an unabashed fan of Kristi Belcamino’s Gabriella Giovanni series, and have come to expect terrific writing from her. That being said I was a little apprehensive as I began reading her newest novel, City of Angels, a book being marketed as “Young Adult” fiction. I was concerned whether her foray into a different “type” of writing would result in a book that might disappoint me.
I am very pleased to say that City of Angels was a wonderful read, capturing and engaging my attention immediately with a cast of young (thus the YA tag) characters, sparked by the damaged and flawed Veronica ‘Nikki’ Black; all of whom I quickly came to care about for their roles in an unfolding drama, featuring the trademark grit, relevance, tension, and feels which I have come to expect in a Kristi Belcamino novel. I think this novel will speak to, and engage, readers across the age spectrum, as there are vivid life challenges portrayed which will find and touch a sensitive spot in every one of those readers.
“City of Angels is a first class thriller set in LA during the time of the Rodney King beating, trial, and subsequent riot. The dangers faced by Nikki, Rain, and their friends kept me turning the pages in anticipation for what happens next. I have enjoyed all of Kristi Belcamino’s Gabriella Giovanni Mysteries, so I’m not surprised by how much I like City of Angels.”
“City of Angels is a gripping novel of loss, grit, and ultimately redemption within the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. Nikki Black’s journey of perseverance, commitment, and survival will keep you entranced…I was thrilled to receive an advance copy…Belcamino always hits the mark!”
“Loved this book! It grabbed me from the get-go and I had to read it all the way through without stopping. Great story, authentic setting of time and place; some really, really bad guys, and believable, admirable heroes/heroines. Fast paced, but sentimental at times, affects many emotions. Listed as a Y.A. (Young Adults) genre, but I would recommend it to adults. I could sympathize with the main character and her friends. An extremely gratifying read. So grateful for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy.”
Here is my inspiration board on Tumblr.