81 pages 2 hours read

Gordon Korman

Son Of The Mob

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2002

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Summary and Study Guide


Son of the Mob is a young adult novel by Gordon Korman, published in 2002. It is a comedic adventure story that concerns a teenaged boy named Vince Luca, and his attempts to come to terms with his Mafia family.

Vince’s life is a mixture of mundane teenaged concerns (girls, grades) and adult criminal activity. This is established in the first chapter of the book, when he takes a girl named Angela out on a date. He is groomed and prepped for the perfect romantic evening by his best friend and sidekick, Alex. While parked with Angela at the beach, Vince opens the trunk of his Mazda, hoping to find a blanket, and instead finds a (still live) body inside: James Ratelli, known as Jimmy Rat. This is a business associate of Anthony Luca’s, Vince’s father. Jimmy Rat owes Anthony money. Vince realizes that his hotheaded older brother, Tommy, who works for his father as an enforcer, impulsively took Vince’s Mazda earlier to find Jimmy and “lean on” him (11). Vince cannot hide Jimmy from Angela for long, and she is furious with him; they leave the beach and just manage to escape a police roadblock, with some dramatic last-minute help from “Benny the Zit,” another one of his father’s associates.

Vince tells us that he learned early on about the real nature of his family’s business, although he and Tommy were at first told by their parents that they ran a vending-machine company. He is revolted by the thuggish brutality of his family, as well as by the elaborate paranoia and secrecy under which they must live. Although he is pressured by his father to join the family business, he is determined to break away and become an upstanding citizen. Over the course of the novel, however, he finds that escaping is not as easy as he had believed. He is approached in the parking lot of his high school by a desperate Jimmy, who wants Vince to beg his father for an extension on the debt that Jimmy owes him. With reluctance, Vince agrees to help Jimmy. At the same time, he begins to date a girl in his class named Kendra, who happens to be the daughter of the very FBI agent who is investigating his family. Even while he is getting drawn further and further into his family’s shady dealings, he is desperate to keep his identity a secret from Kendra. Further intrigues and complications in his life include the rumor that one of his father’s associates is an inside man for the FBI, and also some mysterious, apparently coded messages that turn up on a website that Vince designs for a school project.

When Vince and Kendra almost cross paths with Kendra’s father at a shopping mall one afternoon, Vince impulsively tells Kendra the truth about his family’s identity. To his surprise, Kendra is excited by this news, rather than horrified. However, she believes Vince himself to have nothing to do with his family’s business, and when she gets a tip from her father about Vince’s dealings with Jimmy Rat, she angrily breaks up with him. Meanwhile, helping out Jimmy Rat turns out to be more complicated than Vince had believed. Jimmy, as well as another peripheral business associate named Ed Mishkin, turn out to be invested in a strip club, which they believe will eventually make them more than enough money to pay off their debts to Anthony Luca. However, Vince finds out that his father is behind this money-draining strip club—which itself turns out to be a front for shadier Mafia activities—even while Vince’s father is squeezing Ed and Jimmy for money.

Vince is also disillusioned by some other central people in his life. Ray, who had been one of his main confidantes in his extended Mafia family, turns out to be the FBI informant; his older brother, Tommy, meanwhile, turns out to have been using Vince’s class project website as a forum for illegal horse-betting. By playing Ray and his father off against one another, Vince is able to win concessions from both of them. He promises Ray that as long as Ray leaves his family alone from now on, he will not be hurt, because Vince has “some leverage” on his father (238). He then tells his father both about Ray and about Tommy’s illegal horse-betting site, which he has put on a floppy disk. If anything should happen to Ray, he tells his father, he will turn the disk in to the cops.

Ray obligingly disappears into a witness protection program, but before doing so does Vince one final favor: he stops by Kendra’s house, to tell her that Vince’s motives for helping Jimmy and Ed were well-meaning and high-minded. Kendra confronts Vince at his locker after class and apologizes, and the two of them make up, joking about being like a modern, less-tragic Romeo and Juliet.