Teen PIs will love 'Sweet 16 to Life,' a Nancy Drew in the 'hood

Sometimes, you have a good nose for trouble.

One deep breath and you can practically smell mayhem. It’s almost like a perfume you can’t resist, a whiff of rebellion, and when that happens — when danger floats in the air — well, what can you do? You have to give in. You must follow it.

But what if that smell is something else? What if it’s smoke or the scent of blood? In the new book “Sweet 16 to Life” by Kimberly Reid, somebody needs to pay attention and keep her nose clean.

With just days to go, amateur detective Chanti Evans hoped her 16th birthday would be memorable. She dreamed of holding the arm of Special Someone while wearing the gorgeous dress that hung on the back of her bedroom door.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t anywhere near reality. Marcus, her briefly-boyfriend, had recently broken up with Chanti because his parents thought she was dangerous.

Right. Like a few narrowly-missed homicides were a big deal.

Chanti never looked for crimes to solve; they found her instead. Case in point, the night her friend MJ’s house caught fire. Thankfully, nobody was home and the blaze was easily extinguished but Chanti was suspicious: MJ was more worried about the contents of the basement than the rest of the house. Add in the creepy hoodie-wearing dude who stood smiling as he watched the house burn, and something wasn’t right.

Neither was the fact that MJ seemed to be awfully close to Hoodie Dude. She said it was nothing, that she was just creeping on her boyfriend, but Chanti thought it was more than that. And if there was trouble, it could jeopardize MJ’s parole.

But watching her friend’s back wasn’t the only drama in Chanti’s life. It seemed, for instance, that Marcus was always nearby, and he was too tempting. Plus, there was the stress of keeping her mother’s job under wraps, It wouldn’t do for everybody in the ‘hood to know that Lana was an undercover cop.

No, that would mean more danger, as if Chanti wasn’t up to her nose in it already: it turned out that Hoodie Dude was a second-man gangster from L.A. and until he disappeared, leaving behind a pool of blood, he had his mind set on controlling Denver. Was this the one case Chanti couldn’t solve?

Don’t bet on it. In fact, don’t bet on anything but enjoyment from this sharp, sassy mystery series.

Reid’s main character, Chanti, is like Nancy Drew in the ‘hood: same savvy sleuthing, but with the bite of modern realism and a good amount of humor. There’s keen danger depicted here, but no profanity. Teen PIs will find a fun, not-so-easily-solved mystery but no hard-core violence. That makes this a perfect whodunit for readers 12 to 17.

This book is part of a series, so you’ll probably be happier if you get up-to-speed by grabbing one of the earlier installments first. Once you do, then “Sweet 16 to Life” is a great book to have your nose in.


View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for teens and children weekly.