The Prince of Steel Pier

Lerner/Kar-Ben. Sept. 2022. 248p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781728430331; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781728430348.
Gr 4-7–The year is 1975, and Atlantic City is changing. Family-run hotels are being bought out, parts are becoming unsafe after dark, and gambling is about to be made legal. For 13-year-old Joey Goodman, it’s a typical summer, playing Skee-Ball, hanging out with his three brothers, and working at his grandparents’ kosher hotel. Everything changes when he catches the eye of local mobsters who start betting on his Skee-Ball games. Joey eagerly accepts their attention as part of the inner circle, especially from their charismatic leader, Artie Bishop, who gives him the important job of chaperoning Melanie, his teenage daughter. Between a crush on Melanie, lying to his family, and doing more favors for Artie, Joey quickly finds himself in too deep with the mob and must rely on his own courage, and his family, to get out. Written in the protagonist’s first-person voice, this is an immersive historical fiction novel, based on some of the author’s own experiences at her family’s hotel. Alongside carefree boardwalk games and the intrigue of the mob, it is a coming-of-age story of Joey trying to prove his worth and find his place in his family. He has conversations about faith and religion and regularly experiences anti-Semitic comments.
VERDICT This fast-paced middle grade novel will engage and resonate with readers. Recommended for school and public libraries looking to expand their historical fiction selection. Pair with Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts.

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