A Young Teen Falls in with the Mob, and Learns a Lesson About What Kind of Person He Wants to Be
In The Prince of Steel Pier, Joey Goodman is spending the summer at his grandparents’ struggling hotel in Atlantic City, a tourist destination on the decline. Nobody in Joey’s big Jewish family takes him seriously, so when Joey’s Skee-Ball skills land him an unusual job offer from a local mobster, he’s thrilled to be treated like “one of the guys,” and develops a major crush on an older girl in the process. Eventually disillusioned by the mob’s bravado, and ashamed of his own dishonesty, he recalls words of wisdom from his grandfather that finally resonate. Joey realizes where he really belongs: with his family, who drive him crazy, but where no one fights a battle alone. All it takes to get by is one’s wits…and a little help from one’s brothers.
I found the concept of this book interesting, featuring a young teen in a transition period of his life, in a transition time period in Atlantic City. As a character Joey is very compelling and I could see how kids in the same age range would really identify with him. Joey is the third of four sons and really struggling to find his place in his family and in life itself, he feels like no one gets him and like he’s sometime invisible or an afterthought – which is a feeling I think a lot of young readers may struggle with at some point. Throughout the story is the theme of Joey not only figuring out things about himself, but also determining what is right and wrong when he’s exposed to some individuals associated with the mob.
He goes through a lot of growth in a small amount of time while also solidifying his place in a lot of ways. He learns a lot about life in general as well as his family and how society treats people they see as different than them. This book does touch on discrimination and while I don’t know a lot personally about the Jewish faith, I appreciated the snippets of information throughout the book and really appreciated Joey’s questions and contemplation on his own faith.
While some of the little twists were a tad predictable for me, I think they were perfect for the targeted age range for this story. I really enjoyed reading Joey’s story and seeing how he grew along the way.