When I received an email about Cracks in the Ice by Deanna K. Klingel, I could not wait to read it. While I enjoyed the novel, it was not what I expected.  The synopsis on the back cover described the protagonist, Gina Mangalli, as a mafia princess, but the story focuses more on Gina’s personal life than her mafia connections. Cracks in the Ice is set in the 1950s-1970s in Little Sicily, Michigan, which was a mafia headquarters.

What I most enjoyed about Cracks in the Ice is the title. I always enjoy a story where the title is a statement or philosophy of one of the main characters. Gina Mangalli states the title at the end of the first chapter: “I’ve learned that the Dobermans and cracks are just like all of life: loud, fast, and dangerous. I just look them all in the eye. I’m not afraid of the Dobermans, or cracks in the ice. I’m ready” (5). “Cracks in the ice” is a metaphor for the trials Gina faces. The theme is stated by Gina, “A secret starts with a little fib; just a little nick in life’s smooth surface. Then is starts to grow, like a crack in the ice. . . . Like a crack in the ice when it becomes too big to be safely contained, the secret, the lie, becomes dangerous” (121). The metaphor continues through the end of the novel. Indeed, Gina’s life is shrouded in secrets. She lives in the protective shroud of her mafia uncle and feels isolated. Gina can only find solace in ice skating.

In addition to the pervading metaphor, the novel gives one more piece of advice we can all use. Bugsy, who works for Gina’s uncle, gives Gina the advice, “look fear in the eye.” This advice helps Gina get through many trials, and later, she passes it on to her daughter, Sienna.

The beginning of the novel is in medias res and a little abrupt but nonetheless interesting. While I enjoyed the story, I did not care for the style. The novel is very choppy, jumping from one event to the next and then reflecting on the past event. I understand this style is deliberate, as the novel is written somewhat as Gina’s diary, but there were a few places where I got confused about what was going on. This is a matter of preference; the style does not detract from the story. Thus, I did not enjoy the first part of the novel as much as I thought I would. I did not see Gina’s character mature. However, part two of the novel takes a dramatic turn. The plot pace crescendos and I could not wait to figure out what happened. Sienna’s story is much more interesting than Gina’s and parallels Gina’s life, yet part one is crucial to the story.

The ending ties the two parts of the novel together and leaves the reader feeling very satisfied. Tiny details that seemed insignificant in part one became the threads that tie the two parts together, leaving the novel complete. Overall, I enjoyed Cracks in the Ice and appreciated the first part of the novel after I finished it. I recommend this novel to young adults, and I would encourage readers to not give up early in the novel but keep reading. They will not be disappointed.

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College and is studying Math and Creative Writing. This picture was taken outside of the Harrington-Peachtree building at Presbyterian where Kathryn takes Calculus and Freshman Psychology.