The Prince of Steel Pier

The Prince of Steel Pier
Age Range
Release Date
September 01, 2022
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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.

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No matter what, you can count on family
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What worked:
The Jewish faith is an important part of the story, as Joey questions his place in the community. He wonders how God can allow bad things to happen and questions how well he understands his religion. However, he’s very loyal to his close-knit family, as his parents, brothers, grandparents, and uncle operate a hotel right on the beach. They practice their culture by eating kosher foods, visiting the synagogue regularly, celebrating Jewish traditions, and periodically speaking Yiddish. Joey’s anger kicks in when he witnesses and experiences prejudice against Jews in the form of disparaging slurs and unintentionally offensive comments.
The inclusion of mobsters in a book for young readers is uncommon, as the story takes place during a time when casinos are forcing people out of their New Jersey neighborhoods by buying up their properties. Joey admires Artie, the mob boss in the area, and he’s pleased when the man takes a special interest in him. Artie’s thugs are clearly dangerous men, and Joey’s frightened by phone conversations he overhears and threats he witnesses. Joey’s relationship with the mobsters contributes danger and mystery to the plot, and the situation is further complicated when Joey becomes the “baby-sitter” for Artie’s visiting daughter.
Honesty is an important topic in the book, as Joey struggles with the lies he’s telling his brothers, parents, and relatives. They begin simply with misleading statements or half-truths but quickly evolve into flat-out deceit. Readers will notice how his deceptions get out of control until Joey finds himself in an unexpectedly dangerous situation. He wants to confess to his brother or grandfather, but the notion that things will get better at the end of the week is naive. Problems won’t go away by themselves, and the only thing he can count on is family.
What didn’t work as well:
As with many books for young readers, the main character gets himself into trouble beyond his control and tries to keep it secret from those who might help. Being truthful in the beginning will prevent future problems. However, in this case, being honest would undermine the conflict and plot, and the author wouldn’t have a captivating, emotional story.
The Final Verdict:
Readers will immediately connect with Joey’s character due to his kindness and good heart. They’ll feel empathy for him as his problems mount and root for him when things look worst. Overall, I enjoyed this book very much, and I recommend you give it a shot.
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