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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1218

Author: Gordon Korman (b. 1963)

First published: 2002

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Crime Fiction, Dark Comedy

Time of plot: 2002

Locale: Nassau County and New York City, New York

Principal characters

Vince Luca, the seventeen-year-old son of a New York mob boss

Anthony "Honest Abe ...

(The entire section contains 1218 words.)

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Author: Gordon Korman (b. 1963)

First published: 2002

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Crime Fiction, Dark Comedy

Time of plot: 2002

Locale: Nassau County and New York City, New York

Principal characters

Vince Luca, the seventeen-year-old son of a New York mob boss

Anthony "Honest Abe" Luca, his father

Tommy Luca, his older brother

Kendra Bightly, his eventual girlfriend

Alex Tarkanian, his best friend

Ray Francione, an undercover agent in the Luca organization

James "Jimmy Rat" Ratelli, a debt-ridden nightclub owner

The Story

In Son of the Mob (2002), seventeen-year-old Vince Luca is similar to most normal teenagers, save for one glaring difference: he is the son of Anthony "Honest Abe" Luca, a major New York mafia kingpin. As the novel begins, Vince has just begun his senior year at Jefferson High School in Nassau County, New York. The year starts off badly when, during a date, Vince discovers an unconscious man in the trunk of his car. The man is nightclub owner James "Jimmy Rat" Ratelli, who has been left there accidentally by Vince's older brother Tommy, who works for their father. Vince's date, unsurprisingly, ends in disaster; Tommy later tries unsuccessfully to set Vince up with an escort as a form of penance. Up until this point, Vince has deliberately avoided involvement in his father's business—vending machines, according to his mother—and the only person he trusts inside it is Ray Francione, a levelheaded Luca associate who serves as Tommy's minder.

Following his disastrous date, Vince tries out for the high school football team. He is urged to do so by his best friend, Alex Tarkanian, as part of an absurd attempt by them to attract the attention of the opposite sex. The two make the team, but Vince abruptly quits during the team's home opener, after he learns that opponents have intentionally avoided hitting him because of his father. While storming off the field, Vince is approached by Kendra Bightly, a fellow senior who writes for the school newspaper. He dodges her questions, but he eventually bumps into her again at a college fraternity party in Manhattan.

At the party, Vince impulsively makes out with Kendra after finding out that her father is an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In the process, Kendra, who works at a daycare center, unknowingly gives Vince head lice. They later treat each other's hair at Kendra's house after both are sent home from school. By then, Vince has come to the realization that Kendra's father is not just any FBI agent, but one who has been secretly investigating his father for years. Undaunted, Vince starts dating Kendra, making up ruses and white lies along the way to conceal his true identity.

Matters become more complicated when Vince, with Kendra in tow, is approached after school one day by Jimmy Rat, who is still in debt to his father. To protect Jimmy from violent retribution, Vince vouches for him, then becomes his loan shark. Soon afterward, Vince also reluctantly assumes the debt of Jimmy's friend, Ed Mishkin, his partner in a profitless gentleman's club. Vince does all of this without Kendra's knowledge, but he eventually decides to tell her about his father after a near-miss encounter with her father at the mall.

Unfazed by the revelation, Kendra grows even closer to Vince, and the two continue their clandestine relationship. It is nevertheless repeatedly threatened. First Alex, as part of a jealous ploy, puts up posters around the school asking the student body to vote for Vince and Kendra as homecoming king and queen. Vince then discovers that Tommy has used a website he created for media class as a front for an illegal betting operation. Kendra finally breaks it off with Vince after her father shows her surveillance photos of him in his loan shark dealings.

Vince's well-intentioned foray into loan sharking ultimately backfires when it is revealed that Jimmy and Ed have been getting scammed all along by mob associates of his father. This leads to a dramatic, rain-soaked blowout between Vince and his father outside their home. Still, Vince later saves his father from a potential legal nightmare when he identifies Ray as an undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated the Luca organization. Vince confronts Ray at his apartment and makes him a deal: his father will not harm him if he disappears. Ray relents, but not before clearing things up with Kendra, whose father is his colleague. At the end of the novel, Vince informs his father about the deal, then reconciles with Kendra. Vince and Kendra resolve to keep their relationship a secret from their parents.

Critical Evaluation

Gordon Korman's Son of the Mob was published when the mafia-focused landmark television series The Sopranos (1999–2007) was at the height of its popularity. Like that series, the novel focuses on the importance of family and its influence on individual members' values, beliefs, and expectations. Unlike his peers, Vince has been born into a family of organized crime, one whose members laugh at nights in jail and unpaid parking tickets. Vince prides himself on eschewing the family business and all facets of what he refers to as "The Life," but he does so under an illusion, not realizing that his "whole life is paid for" by his father's business, as Ray explains to him early in the novel. Ironically, Vince finds it even harder to escape the grasp of his family's business after he starts dating the daughter of an FBI agent. It is only then that Vince becomes involved in loan sharking, begins lying regularly, and taps into his vast network of illicit resources, from stolen credit cards to untraceable cell phones.

Korman accentuates the complexity of Vince's family situation through his relationship with Kendra. Because of their fathers' respective professions, Vince and Kendra find themselves in an impossible situation, becoming prototypical star-crossed lovers in the vein of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which the two characters playfully reference at several points in the novel. Still, Vince is determined to carry on his relationship with Kendra despite the many obstacles thrown in their way. At the end of the novel, though, when his father's future is jeopardized, Vince remains loyal to him and, in the process, earns his respect. "There are a million guys who want to be in The Life," Anthony Luca tells his son. "But real brains, that's something different."

Korman uses humor to mask the novel's darker elements, making it more appropriate for young adult readers. However, he still presents a powerful warning of the perils of crime and the lure of easy money. Meanwhile, the heart of the story provides a fresh example of the old expression "love conquers all."

Further Reading

  • Peters, John. Review of Son of the Mob, by Gordon Korman. Booklist, 1 Nov. 2002, p. 485. Literary Reference Center, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=8600888&site=lrc-live. Accessed 7 Feb. 2018.
  • Review of Son of the Mob, by Gordon Korman. Kirkus Reviews, 1 Sept. 2002, p. 1313. Literary Reference Center, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=7278281&site=lrc-live. Accessed 7 Feb. 2018.
  • Review of Son of the Mob, by Gordon Korman. Publishers Weekly, 28 Oct. 2002, p. 73. Literary Reference Center, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=7686996&site=lrc-live. Accessed 7 Feb. 2018.
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