Goldie Vance is a sunny, unstoppable force of nature. At sixteen, she has already solved a few mysteries around the Florida resort that her dad manages. She hopes to continue her detective work this summer, but things at the resort seem frustratingly routine and un-mysterious. Luckily, Goldie’s rival-turned-friend Sugar Maple is starring in a movie, and she has invited Goldie’s mom to consult on the film out in Hollywood—and bring Goldie along! Goldie’s girlfriend Diane and best friend Cheryl are also jetting off to Los Angeles for exciting summer internships, so they’ll all be together for what promises to be an excellent summer.

Goldie being Goldie, she has barely arrived when she finds herself witness to a car chase. Putting together some clues from the scene leads her to the office of a tough, standoffish private detective, Adella Avery. Though she initially resists the idea of hiring a teenaged assistant, Avery grudgingly accepts that Goldie has talent and agrees to take her on. Avery is currently investigating a series of big-ticket thefts, and Goldie soon discovers connections between the thefts, Avery’s past, and even Sugar Maple’s new movie! What’s going on? And where will the thieves strike next?

Set in an alternate version of the 1960s—one without segregation, racism, or homophobia—this book is diverse, upbeat, and fun. It has a retro feel to it, though the exact time of the setting is not necessarily obvious. (I had to look it up to be sure.) The outfits and styles of the characters fit the time period, though, as do the diners and movie sets we sometimes see in the backgrounds. The art is poppy and colorful, with expressive characters who are just on the realistic side of cartoonish.

Goldie is a good-hearted and good-humored heroine who overcomes obstacles with smarts and persistence. Avery is prickly, but dedicated, and the complexity of her character is revealed as more of her past comes to light. Diane, Cheryl, and the rest of Goldie’s crew don’t get a lot of page time, but each has her own pursuits and interests in addition to supporting Goldie.

There’s plenty of action in this book, and more than a little crime, but it’s still a lighthearted romp populated almost entirely with people who mean well. No one gets hurt, no one swears, and there is no sexual content that goes beyond a quick kiss. But while the story is kid-friendly, it’s not juvenile or overly simplistic: the dialogue is clever, and some characters’ motivations are complicated.

It is refreshing and heartening to read a story with a richly diverse cast—both in terms of race and LGBTQ+ representation—that does not focus on discrimination or tragedy. Stories of racism, homophobia, and the overcoming thereof are important, but it is also important for people of color and LGBTQ+ readers to see themselves in stories that are not all about oppression, and for readers of all stripes to see diverse characters star in a variety of stories. Goldie is a biracial girl with a girlfriend, and to follow her happy and exciting mystery-solving life offers readers hope and positivity.

While it is part of the Goldie Vance series, this volume stands alone just fine. Hand it to young mystery fans, especially those who like their stories on the gentle side.

Goldie Vance: Larceny in La La Land
By Jackie Ball
Art by Mollie Rose, Natalia Nesterenko, and Lea Caballero
ISBN: 9781684155446
BOOM! Box, 2020
Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldie_Vance (Wikipedia or Goodreads)

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NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Traits: Black, Multiracial, Lesbian,
Creator Highlights: LGBTQIA+ Creator

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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