Saturday, August 4, 2012

Son of the Mob (book) by Gordon Korman

Son of the Mob was one of my library checkouts.

Synopsis:

Vince Luca wants to live his life just like any other guy in high school. Unfortunately for him, the Lucas happen to be big in organized crime. No matter how hard Vince tries to escape his family's criminal activities, there's always something that invades his life. Like that time he found a guy, out cold, in the truck of his car while he was out on a date. The FBI has most of his house bugged.

Then Vince meets Kendra. He's wild about her, and the feeling is mutual - too bad her dad is one of the FBI agents assigned to spy on the Lucas. Kendra has no idea what Vince's family does for a living, and he's not about to let her find out. If that wasn't stressful enough, Vince also has to deal with his best friend's jealousy, a web design project, and the results of his efforts to try to help a guy who owes his dad money.

Review:

The son of the head of a mob family falls in love with the daughter of an FBI agent - that's all it took for me to know I had to read this book. Happily, it turned out to be just as enjoyable as I had hoped.

I really liked Vince's “voice.” The book is written in the first person, from his perspective. He's a nice guy who tries to live as much like an ordinary, law-abiding citizen as possible, but his family's business has a habit of bleeding into his life. I loved reading about him trying to keep everything together while also trying to keep to his own ideas of right and wrong. Vince wasn't always the brightest of characters (I clued in to some of what was going on with his web design project well before he did), but he was very likable. I wanted things to turn out well for him, even when it wasn't always easy to figure out what “well” might mean for a kid who wants to obey the law but has a family that breaks it at every opportunity.

I had wondered how the mob aspects would be handled. In a lot of things I've read and seen in which the mobsters were not supposed to be 100% the bad guys, the mob aspects were often downplayed. The beginning of Son of the Mob made it seem like that's how it would be in that book, too. While on a date, Vince opens the trunk of his car to discover that his brother put someone in there. I at first thought he might be dead, but, no, he was just unconscious. When he woke up, he was more upset about the kind of car he'd been locked up in than that he'd been beaten.

While I'm still not sure how dirty Vince's immediate family members ever got their hands, later on it's made clear that the “uncles,” at least, don't all just bruise a guy and then leave him be. There's nothing “on page” - the dark stuff is still, in my opinion, handled lightly - but the mobsters are definitely not all handled in a “rough around the edges but still nice” sort of way.

The focus is on Vince, who is only exposed to a very small amount of the stuff his family is involved in. For the most part, Vince is concerned with Kendra, his relationship with his best friend Alex, and his efforts to keep others out of trouble with his family. I thought his relationship with Kendra was cute  and fun (they got to know each other better via a mutual need to head lice treatments, and Vince becomes a fan of the many karaoke tapes Kendra records), but I found myself wishing Kendra had known as much as Vince about what was going on. She spent most of the book clueless, confused and hurt by Vince's insistence that they not meet each other's families. I'm tempted to read the sequel, Son of the Mob: Hollywood Hustle, just to see how things go between the two of them once everyone knows what's going on.

All in all, this was a fun, light read.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Wild Ones (manga) by Kiyo Fujiwara - After Sachie's mother dies, her grandfather, who she hadn't even known was still alive, shows up an takes her in. Sachie is shocked to learn that her grandfather is the head of a yakuza gang, but she adjusts fairly well to her new life. Rakuto, a member of Sachie's grandfather's gang who's her age, is assigned to be her bodyguard, leading to even more complications in her life. Those who'd like more humor, romance, and gangsters might want to try this. I've written about the first three volumes.
  • Gokusen (anime TV series) - The main character of this series is a math teacher assigned to work with a class full of delinquents. She soon gains her students' respect, but there's a good chance she'll lose her job if her secret is learned: she's actually the heir to a powerful yakuza clan.
  • A Girl Named Digit (book) by Annabel Monaghan - If you'd like something else that's a little over-the-top and features the FBI and a bit of romance, you might want to try this. I've written about it.
  • Carter Finally Gets It (book) by Brent Crawford - I went looking for other humorous books starring high school aged boys and came across this.

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