Saturday, November 22, 2008

Book Review: Mexican WhiteBoy

Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena*. (Grades 9+)

There are no easy answers to Danny's problems this summer.

1. He's spending the summer with his Mexican relatives in National City because his white mom is living in San Francisco with her boyfriend. As much as Danny wants to fit in, he feels like an outsider because he doesn't speak Spanish and because he's smart and goes to a private school. He's too white to be Mexican, but at school he's too Mexican to be white.

2. He's in love with a girl who only speaks Spanish and how's he going to get to know her if they can't ever say anything to each other?

3. He loves baseball and he's an amazing pitcher, but he loses his control under pressure and he has no idea why.

4. His dad left almost four years ago. Danny knows it's because he's not Mexican enough, because he's not tough enough, not perfect enough.

All Danny wants to do is run away to Mexico and find his dad. He knows everything will be better once he can see and talk to his dad again. But as the summer wears on, Danny will find different answers to his problems. He'll make a best friend. He'll have a first kiss. He'll learn some hard truths. He'll figure things out. No, Danny's problems don't have easy answers, but the difficult answers will be worth so much more.

I loved this book. Danny and all the other characters felt so REAL. I was rooting for Danny the whole way through. The story is told through two points of view - Danny's and a kid named Uno's. Uno is facing some of the same problems as Danny is. His dad lives in another town. Uno's half black and half Mexican, so some people in the neighborhood treat him differently. Their friendship develops very naturally.

There's plenty of baseball for the sports fans, but this novel is about so much more than baseball. For Danny it's about finding his identity and figuring out who he can count on. It's about building trust with other people and building trust with himself. Short chapters and the alternating perspective kept me turning the pages. This would be great for reluctant readers.

Highly recommended. I have to admit that I haven't read de la Pena*'s first YA book, Ball Don't Lie, but I'll certainly be looking for it now. Read more reviews at Reading Rants! and Oops...Wrong Cookie. Read the opening from the book here. *Oookay, I know that's supposed to be an enye, but I have NO IDEA how to do it on Blogger... anyone know???


3 comments:

Kim Baise said...

I'm rooting for Danny too. Sounds like a great book!
Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Rettger said...

I had to do this a lot in college - Alt + 0241 is the ASCII code for ñ. I love when that Latin American studies major comes in handy!

Jennila said...

Matt de la Peña was my writing teacher this summer and gave me a copy of Mexican WhiteBoy. I finished it in a few hours and loved it. I think you've covered a lot of the reasons I liked the book- I also enjoyed how it was written in the present tense, something I haven't seen before. I'm encouraging (rather, forcing) all my friends to read Mexican WhiteBoy, and Ball Don't Lie is next on my to read list.