Sunday, September 26, 2010

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

It doesn't take Vince Luca long in his life to find out that his dad is in the "vending machine business" or that the vending machine business has nothing to do with vending machines either. For one, he knows that his dad is an only child, but there always seem to be a few sinister-seeming Uncles around the house. That, and when his dad says a sarcastic good night to empty rooms, it's not hard to tell that the Luca house is bugged by the FBI. Yes, Vince Luca's dad is a mob kingpin, and it's causing Vince all sorts of problems, especially in his love life, like that time he took a girl to the beach, opened the trunk to get a blanket out, only to find one of his dad's roughed up debtors passed out in the trunk. Things are going to get worse, though, because Vince is falling for the daughter of the very same FBI agent that is trying to put his dad away for good.

Son of the Mob is a great blend of the hilarious and the serious. Vince is a sympathetic and funny narrator caught between his dad's line of work, which always seems to be getting him in trouble and the comfortable life he leads because of it. It's hard to take a moral stand against the mob when his dad's income from it is what's putting food on the table. The story is littered with oddly named Uncles and their expected and unexpected exploits. The back story of Vince's dawning realization that his dad's line of work is a bit different than all the other kids' dads, not to mention the scrapes he's always getting into because of it, are all laugh out loud funny.

In a strange sort of way, Son of the Mob is a convincing coming of age story. Vince has always had the mob in his life, but he's never worked out where he fits into his family's story. He knows that a criminal life isn't one he wants to lead, but he is still wrestling with how to reconcile that distaste for his dad's life with a son's inherent loyalty to a dad who, despite his illegal career, has taken care of him and cared about him all of his life. Vince's relationship with Kendra, the FBI agent's daughter, is less of a convincing love story than it is a plot device that throws all Vince's quandaries into sharp relief and forces him to face up to what his dad is doing and what he, Vince, is going to do about it.

Ultimately, Son of the Mob is a funny story with heart and a serious coming of age component that almost takes you by surprise.

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