________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005


Son of the Mob 2: Hollywood Hustle.

Gordon Korman.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2004.
268 pp., cloth, $21.99.
ISBN 0-439-96178-5.

Subject headings:
Mafia - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Joan Marshall.

*** /4


In my original script, the bartender asks Gabriella to tell him a little about herself so he'll be in a better position to help her with her situation. Here's how it translates to Tommyspeak: "Listen, sister, I ain't your mother and I ain't your shrink. Why don't you give the world a break and stuff a sock in it?"

In the stunned silence that follows, Tommy grabs Zora by the back of the collar, pulls her close and kisses her.

Needless to say, this isn't in the script. But I'm so dumbfounded that I can't seem to come up with the word cut.

Zora goes rigid for a second but then she starts kissing him back. It's like looking in somebody's window. I feel that I'm the intruder here. I'm definitely not the director.

And then - a muffled sound, suspiciously like Hey! And Zora is staggering back from him, screaming bloody murder.

Then I understand why. Sticking out of his belt is the butt of a pistol.

Everybody sees it, and there are a lot of Heys!, including a loud pointed one from the bar manager.

I'm so used to covering up for my family that the lie springs fully formed to my lips. "Tommy, I told you to take that back to the props department."

It convinces the foreign students, but the manager isn't fooled. "I run a nice quiet place," he announces firmly. "I don't need this kind of aggravation. Don't come back to film; don't come back to drink; just don't come back."

Lucky for me the syllabus lists next week's lecture as 'Scouting Out Locations.’


In this energetic, fast-paced sequel to Son of the Mob, Vince Luca, son of top New York mobster Anthony Luca, tries to escape involvement in the family business by attending film school in California. What he doesn't count on is his father's using him to gain information about a congressman who is trying to break a union. Everyone, from his roommate Trey (son of the congressman) to Willow ( Trey's girlfriend - but really an FBI agent) to Vince's "uncles," who just happen to be visiting him, and Tommy, Vince's brother who says he's going straight, is not what they appear to be. It's all an elaborate set-up.

     Vince is such a likeable, high-strung, worrywart teenager, emotionally over-the-top and excruciatingly funny. A stream of self-deprecating humour endears the reader to this privileged young American who has every material need taken care of with Mob money. Every teen has to separate from family, and Vince is no exception. He struggles with developing his own life outside the Mob but finds himself drawn into the action in spite of his father's efforts to keep him in the dark. In fact, Vince's highly anxious, suspicious nature and his lifetime experience as Anthony Luca's son lead him to jump to many incorrect conclusions. Vince's love life falls apart as his girlfriend Kendra, daughter of the FBI agent who is investigating Anthony Luca, suspects him of two-timing her when she sees photos of him in Willow's arms. Vince can't help himself, as Willow is gorgeous. But wait! Who took those photos, and why? Vince bounces around from one hilarious crisis to the next, figuring out the real story.

     Because we're talking about the Mob, here, nothing in this book seems far-fetched or unrealistic. The cold, detached power of crime, oiled with magnetic personality, whether it's union busting or scamming money from immigrant students, hovers in the background. But it's overlaid with a gossamer, movie-like cloud of laughter. The determination of Trey, Vince and Kendra to escape the power of their parents reflects every teen's need to separate from her/his family. It's only later that they (and others) see their families' influence on their personalities. Korman seamlessly interweaves the essence of the first book into its sequel without resorting to a prologue or any preachy "telling", no small feat.

     Vince's cluttered dorm, pretentious classes, rust-bucket car and bewildering women problems are vintage first year university, American style. The dialogue is up to date, witty, fast and fun. This book, with many strong visual moments, begs to be a screenplay: Vince's mother's home-made Italian food substituted for his incriminating video; Trey driving a stolen vintage VW bus into a tree to spite his father). It's like a teen movie - resting so perfectly in the current culture yet so full of non-stop action and smart humour that you have to laugh.

     Older teens, especially boys, will love this story. It is very clever of Korman to capitalize on the current craze among high school boys for videotaping and writing scripts. Like Vince, many students think that they will be the next best director in Hollywood. This book will catch their interest because of the cover and the setting, but it will be the main character and his escapades that keep them laughing until the end of the novel.


Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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