Gallery (Pocket), Dec 28 2010, $23.99
In the summer of 1978, fifteen year old Samantha Bonti of Bensonhurst dreams of becoming a writer living on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Being half-Jewish and with no father in the household since her Italian dad abandoned her and her mom, Sam is treated as a pariah by the Italian Catholic neighbors. Her Jewish mother Joan is filled with rage at humanity including her daughter and alcohol fuels her bitterness; while Grandma Ruth is her cheerleader encouraging Sam to go for it. Sam’s BFF is fellow outcast Janice Caputo who loathes her heritage that she sees as stifling crap in which males thrive to be the next great gangster.
Sam’s world spins out of control when she meets half-Sicilian, half-Dutch Tony Kroon, a mobster in training. She falls in love with him as she believes he understands her dual heritage. However, Tony warns her to never question his work. Her mom normally ignores her but tells her to dump him as he is no good; Grandma Ruth tells her bubelah to drop him before she loses her dream and becomes her mother’s clone.
This is an entertaining character study of a teen seeking to belong while also dreaming of escaping to that other island across the water. Sam makes the tale work as readers will dream a little dream with her (paraphrasing Mama Cass) while also wondering whether she will cross the East River to truly go after her desires or remain in Brooklyn with Tony who climbs the ladder of his chosen vocation.