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by Shelley Stoehr
Catherine Tavarelli can't believe what she's just found out about her brother, Mickey. He's supposed to be spending his days at college--instead, he's running errands for the local mob. Catherine also suspects that Mickey may be taking and dealing drugs. Catherine's always been Mickey's protector--and she doesn't want him involved in the mob.

So what if she's


Catherine Tavarelli can't believe what she's just found out about her brother, Mickey. He's supposed to be spending his days at college--instead, he's running errands for the local mob. Catherine also suspects that Mickey may be taking and dealing drugs. Catherine's always been Mickey's protector--and she doesn't want him involved in the mob.

So what if she's working secretly at the local mafia social club? And so what if she and her friend Erica do coke once in a while? Catherine can handle it; Mickey can't. Or so she


Editorial Reviews

The ALAN Review - Anne Sherrill
Catherine and her friend Erica are high school seniors working at night clubs to support themselves and their drug habits. Erica gets the cocaine since Catherine resists buying from a dealer herself. After all, she is an honor student planning to attend college. Despite passing out while taking the SAT, she refuses to consider herself part of the drug scene. Neither Catherine nor Erica comes from a stable home. Erica's father is abusive and Catherine's is alcoholic. Her overworked mother is the lone wise adult voice trying to save her daughter and son from the seedy life they have chosen. This book is filled with tough, honest language that to some readers may be shocking. Although the ending is somewhat simplistic, the book's power lies in its graphic rendering of the physical and emotional effects of drugs and the ease with which users can slip into a scary and miserable existence.
VOYA - Mary B. McCarthy
In seventeen-year-old Catherine Tavarelli's New York neighborhood, you aren't anybody unless you associate with the Mafia. While secretly working as a cocktail waitress at an Italian social club, Catherine ignores the young wannabe gangsters and meets Joey Valentino, the exciting wannabe who made it to the big time. As she begins a curious relationship with Joey, Catherine discovers that her older brother Mickey has stopped going to college and started running errands for a local dealer. She has always been his protector, jumping into his fights to keep him from making a name for himself in the neighborhood. Now, how can she criticize Mickey's choices, when she and her friend start using cocaine regularly to make it through school, dates, and even the SATs? Each character seems to be a "wannabe" in his or her own fashion-the alcoholic father who was never accepted, the mother with elusive dreams of a house in Queens, Mickey's hope for gangster fame, and Joey's unknown desires. Catherine's hopes of becoming a writer, the most tenuous of the dreams, is overshadowed by the image of her shoeboxes filled with stories she could never figure out how to end. They have each constructed fantasies of how life could or should be, and must face the challenge of making the fantasy meet painful reality. This sharp novel follows the Tavarelli siblings as they slide all-too-easily into the realm of addiction and struggle to maintain loyalty to each other and their dreams. Readers may be momentarily distracted when Catherine's smooth, biting narrative is interrupted at chapter seven as Mickey begins to narrate his version of the events. This abrupt change allows the reader insight into both falls from grace, which broadens the appeal of the work. Some may object to the violence and language used in this novel, but Stoehr writes skillfully so both seem intrinsic to the characters. Recommended for most older readers, but all will be able to look beyond the superficial lure of the Mafia theme and empathize with the desires of the "wannabes." VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Familiar territory for readers of Stoehr's Crosses (Dell, 1993) and Weird on the Outside (Delacorte, 1995). Seventeen-year-old Catherine's decidedly tarnished version of the golden rule seems to be, "Use others before they use you." She and her best friend grow increasingly entangled in the mob milieu of Little Italy in Manhattan. Falling for handsome Joey Valentino, apparently a mobster on the way up, Cat unsuccessfully tries to keep her brother, Mickey, a wannabe mobster, from following his bent. An enthusiastic patron of mob movies, Mickey drops out of college and eventually is kicked out of the house by his father at gunpoint. Profane street language is common throughout the book. One reference to Cat's sexual activity is described with a mix of humor and directness. Occasional chapters written in Mickey's voice jolt uncomfortably, but effectively communicate his anger and frustration. Description of secondary characters is light. Frequent references to the title appear, as Cat views everyone around her as affecting behavior, language, and attitudes that she self-righteously abhors. Joey Valentino, who shelters Mickey and seems too good to be true in keeping Cat's best interests at heart, turns out to be an undercover cop. The resolution is too happy and too quick, but Stoehr's narrative flow is a strength, as is her ability to capture the rhythms, attitudes, and feelings of teens facing a violent, drug-filled world of big dreams with little chance of making it.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA
Kirkus Reviews
A bruising story of an ultimately caring brother-and-sister relationship that barely survives a tough city environment.

Catherine, who wants to be a writer, has nothing in common with other fictional, determined scribblers such as Jo March or Anne Shirley, who exhibited the ability to transform their worlds and experiences into art. The vocation of Cat, 17, is never convincingly portrayed; instead, Stoehr (Weird on the Outside, 1995, etc.) gives readers a shallow, obnoxious young woman who thrills at the "power trip" of wearing the red leather boots that reach "almost to my crotch" to help her land the big tips at the New York City social club/mob hangout where she waitresses. Cat is upset that brother Mickey is eager to enter the mob world and is delivering and using cocaine. Cat starts using, too, and by book's end she has a raging habit that sends her rashly seeking out her dealer. The sensational plot ends abruptly with both Cat and Mickey easily kicking their habits, and a letter from Bard College spelling a rosy future for Cat. The novel may be a voyeuristic thrill for those who a) have never snorted cocaine from a toilet seat, and b) harbor crushes on up-and-coming John Gotti-types. The characters aren't likable, even when they are believable, while the lurid world they inhabit is offered in admiring glimpses. It wouldn't matter if Stoehr didn't show such promise, but she does, and here it goes largely unfulfilled.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.61(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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