“From the first few pages of this fantastic book, I felt I understood the main character’s personality and the dynamics of this family. Every character has been created with the utmost care. The dialogue especially was strong and explained everything about their personalities and view of the world. The narrative was extremely visual. I was swept into the 1950s and ’60s Italian/American New York. This is an exceptional story of the complexities of family relationships and the battle for authority. This novel truly evoked strong emotions as I read it. I was sad to finish this book as I wanted to know about Johnny’s next chapter of his life. I hope the author writes a sequel. An exceptional story from a very talented author.”
— 5 Stars, Readers’ Favorite

“JOHNNY BOY is an engrossing, tightly written fictional account that reads like a fantastic (albeit heartbreaking at times) memoir. The characters are exceptionally well developed and we’re given an immediate sense of who they are even through the eyes of a three-year-old. Califano writes with a realism that is not so easy to find these days, and the dynamic of the family comes to life through dialogue that you can actually hear being played out in front of you. For all the damage they cause each other and their own children, Bellisario and Marie feel the most like flesh and blood, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for them also—victims themselves of their time and circumstances. I genuinely loved this book and think it’s an excellent read for anyone in the mood for a taste of mid-century Brooklyn through the window of an Italian family.”
— 5 Stars, Readers’ Favorite

“A compelling work of fiction bearing the authentic voice of a memoir, JOHNY BOY by John Califano is a visceral slice of life from a skilled, but subtle pen. Narrating through the eyes and mindset of a young boy can often come across as overly sentimental, but Califano artfully captures the innocence of childhood—and the savage loss of it. This vulnerable account of growing up makes for excellent, heartfelt reading, and Califano shows abundant skill in this debut novel.”
4 Stars, Self-Publishing Review

“Johnny Boy is a quick read. The author creates vivid childhood scenes that are gripping. I loved the depth of character and followed the development of the protagonist with keen interest. The prose is beautiful and highly descriptive and the narrative remains real and gripping. It is a story with powerful lessons, well told, and with scenes that will resonate with many readers.”
— 5 Stars, Readers’ Favorite

Johnny Boy is truly outstanding—that exceedingly rare kind of book, gorgeously written, powerful and authentic in its details, it flies high above most fiction and hits right at the core of what it’s like to be a sensitive kid growing up in a chaotic place—in this case, Brooklyn, NY, circa the ’60s. I have never been to Brooklyn, but since reading John Califano’s semi-autobiographical novel, I feel I know the area intimately. This vivid realism extends into Califano’s superbly crafted characters as well, including minor characters, who each manage to show a sense of who they are and linger long after the story ends. Reading Johnny Boy is to step into a time machine and the mind of intelligent Johnny Caruso as he comes of age in his unique yet quintessentially Italian American family, along with the beautiful highs and crushing lows his journey into adulthood brings—and Califano ensures we feel deeply each peak and trough. It’s an exquisite experience. This is literary fiction at the highest level.”
Philip Elliott, Editor-in-Chief, Into the Void

“JOHNNY BOY takes readers back to Brooklyn in the 1950s and ‘60s for realistic slice of coming-of-age struggles within Italian-American family life. Fiction can serve many storytelling purposes. But it is notably impressive when it manages to uncannily replicate real life in ways that are powerfully resonant with how people actually talk, act, feel and live. And author John Califano does just that with impressive success in JOHNNY BOY. There’s a palpable sense of “you were there, too” realism within JOHNNY BOY’s nicely written tale that makes this book draw the reader into and along its story line.”

“Califano’s prose delivers the realism of a memoir…  the author’s descriptions bring a feeling of immediacy to each scene. The emotions behind (Johnny’s) relationship with his parents, which range from love and admiration to fear and disgust, are heartbreakingly authentic. Keen writing illuminates a collection of striking memories.”
—Kirkus Review

“Through vignettes of daily life, rich dialogue, and a strong cast of characters, JOHNNY BOY captures coming of age at the hands of a violent father and a medicated, mentally ill mother. With a dispassionate tone that relies heavily on pitch-perfect, authentic dialogue, Califano’s narrator relives his childhood with vivid recollection. In the process, New York becomes a vibrant hub of nurture and neglect. Not a word is out of place in the mouths of each Caruso kid as their hopes, fears, and frustrations are released in every argument and conversation. The fury of their father is unleashed not only through his hands but with his vicious accusations and taunts, which Califano conjures with the skill of a master storyteller. He has an ear for voices and dialects that add a layer of realism to these imagined characters. Each encounter propels the story forward as Johnny careens in and out of potential destructive pathways. The family conflict leaves the fate of Johnny uncertain as he moves through junior high into high school and compels the reader to keep turning pages.”
— U.S. Review of Books (Rating: Recommended)

“Johnny is the quintessential universal protagonist. I was amazed by how the author was able to convey the thoughts we often have but never find the right words to say them out loud. I learned so much about myself through this story. It was so fulfilling and almost magical to read. Very entertaining!”
— 5 Stars, Readers’ Favorite

John Califano