The Prince of Steel Pier
Published September 1, 2022
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About The Prince of Steel Pier
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 feel like every time I read historical fiction, I find myself thinking I should read more of it, and THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER definitely made me think that again. I really enjoyed the setting and time period. At one point, Joey talks about going to see the diving horses, and that made me want to watch WILD HEARTS CAN’T BE BROKEN again, which I haven’t seen in years.
I loved the scenes that showed Joey’s big Jewish family. His relationships with his brothers felt so real. Sometimes I couldn’t help laughing at the banter between them. At other times it was sad to see them growing apart.
Joey’s character totally drew me in. He chafed against the opinion he thought his family had of him as a weak or oversensitive person. But as he struck out on his own and tried to build a new reputation with Artie and his gang, Joey found that while they treated him like an independent person, they also expected things of him that he wasn’t sure he could give or even should give.
I thought the story balanced Joey’s character growth with the fast-paced plot pretty well. I felt like there was always just enough time to pause and explore Joey’s feelings before something new before the next conflict emerged.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book. Joey is a layered character who expertly guides us through his journey in a fascinating 1970s Atlantic City landscape.
Content warning for Antisemitic comments.
Recommended for Ages 9 to 13.
Joey and his family are Jewish.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Joey encounters people who make Antisemitic comments about him and his family.
Joey has a crush on a girl.
Joey worries about his faith. He doesn’t believe in God and worries that his family would be disappointed in him.
Joey witnesses some men trying to intimidate another man. Joey overhears some implied threats, too. In one scene, two men pull out knives, threatening another man.
A man at a bar drinks liquor. Joey talks about a time someone in his family gave him a shot of whiskey.
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