The Prince of Steel Pier

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Pub Date 01 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2022
Lerner Publishing Group, Kar-Ben Publishing ®

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The Atlantic City Boardwalk in the summer of 1975 isn't being especially kind to 13-year-old Joey. His grandparents' Jewish hotel is struggling, the city is getting more dangerous by the day, and nobody in his family will take him seriously. So when he gets a job offer from mobster Artie Bishop, the so-called king of Steel Pier, he jumps at the chance to prove his mettle. But running with Artie and his crew means questioning everything he sees and deceiving the people he loves most. And when Artie asks Joey for a very dangerous favor that puts his family at risk, Joey must decide what strength really means to him.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk in the summer of 1975 isn't being especially kind to 13-year-old Joey. His grandparents' Jewish hotel is struggling, the city is getting more dangerous by the day, and...

A Note From the Publisher

Title also available as a paper back for $9.99 (ISBN 978-1-7284-3034-8).

Title also available as a paper back for $9.99 (ISBN 978-1-7284-3034-8).

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ISBN 9781728430331
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 24 members

Featured Reviews

Being from Atlantic City, New Jersey myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade chapter book about the Steel Pier! It was fun and easy to read, the vocabulary wasn’t too complicated.

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The Prince of Steel Pier was a solid Middle Grade Debut about Joey Goodman, a thirteen-year-old Jewish kid who is spending his summer in Atlantic City in the 70's, working at his Grandparents' struggling hotel with his older brothers. He's reached the age where he's too old to be babied like his younger brother and too young to be given a load of responsibility like his older brothers. He's in that middle place where it feels like no one respects him. But while playing skee ball at a local bar, he gets noticed by a bunch of mafia guys who thinks he's a "Good Man." He gets hired to tour the mob boss's daughter around the city and gets in way over his head. This was a heartfelt and honest story about trusting in family and being wary of things that sound "too good to be true."

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A fun ride from start to finish!

I read this book in a single day, which should tell you everything you need to know about how captivating THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER is as Nockowitz weaves an utterly delightful storyline in the unlikeliest of settings. This has all the historical feels while providing every bit of excitement you’d feel if you were meeting Joey and his wonderful Jewish family today.

Speaking of Joey, the 13-year-old protagonist is utterly relatable. I so wanted to be friends with him and his energy kept me glued as he dealt with family, a new friend, and some figures that gave me the chills.

I can’t wait to read what the author comes up with next, but whatever that may be, know that you should read this book NOW. You won’t regret it!

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This was a wonderful Middle Grade debut novel! Its fast-paced narrative held my attention from start to finish, and I was especially taken with the amazing job Nockowitz did with painting the atmosphere of her setting, a deteriorating 1970s Atlantic City in the midst of a sweltering summer. Simply put, 'The Prince of Steel Pier' follows Joey, a young Jewish teen, as a small white lie of Joey's quickly begins to snowball into something much more dangerous when he inadvertently falls in with a local mobster and puts his close-knit family in danger.

Religion is a theme throughout the novel, and for non-Jewish readers like myself, it gives a lovely, informative glimpse into Jewish traditions and culture, yet at the same time portrays the anti-Semitism and discrimination Jewish people have had to face. At the same time, the main character also has questions about his faith, which I feel is a pretty standard experience most young people have as they enter their teenage years, regardless of their religious affiliation; this subplot is woven into the story seamlessly and doesn't slow down the exciting narrative, either.

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The Prince of Steel Pier takes on issues of faith, identity, and family in a unique setting: the transforming neighborhoods of Atlantic City in the 1970s, with a family for whom being Jewish matters. It permeates their speech (e.g., Yiddish sayings), their Friday night activities (Shabbat), and their everyday life. It also leads others to make stereotypes and unfair assumptions about them. Joey Goodman is figuring out who is is and who he wants to be, Should he believe in God? Whom should he trust?

Many books shy away from exploring young adults' beliefs in their quest for self-awareness. This book is not afraid to show how Joey's quest and growth involves not only decisions about family and friends, but also the role of questioning and curiosity regarding God. The author develops each character's personality and role clearly, with care and humor, including (nick)names like "Comb-over" and "Grunts," and "Beans" and first-person reflections that help readers appreciate each struggle Joey experiences, including his feelings of isolation: "This aloneness is a yawning, gaping pit, and I'm in the pit, and it keeps widening until I'm not more than a speck on the bottom of a huge crater."

The setting of the Boardwalk and scenes involving gangsters, tempting Joey, contrast with activities at the family's St. Bonaventure Hotel, which may or may not go under due to the casinos coming to town. This tension gives the story plenty of action and intrigue while reiterating the conflicting feelings within Joey.

I loved this book and look forward to teaching it in my seventh-grade classroom in the upcoming year. We plan to use it to encourage students to explore their own family traditions, their own histories, and what matters to them about their own identities that has come down through their heritage. Joey Goodman is an inspiring character to use as a stepping-off point. Historical research gives context to this story and can provide a framework for the students' research and story sharing as well.

When they first meet, mobster Ralphie asks Joey Goodman, "And are you a good man [add italics]?" Life is not simple in this story; Joey is not a basic trope of a young adult. This is not your average growing-up tale. You should read to follow his journey.

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