Kevin Craig's Reviews > Mexican WhiteBoy

Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena
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's review
Apr 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed

From my book review blog:

Before I start in on my gushing for this novel, I wanted to begin by saying that the story TOTALLY snuck up on me. As I was reading about a hitting competition in the beginning of the book, I had no idea how deep the story would go. Initially it was an interesting read, yes...but it suddenly became so much more than I first imagined it would be. It blossomed into such a great coming of age story...filled with wisdom and memorable characters.

Danny moves to National City to spend the summer with his father's family. Danny felt like an outsider at the preppy private school he attended, because he is half-Mexican, but coming to National City, he feels like an outsider because he is half-white. He doesn't speak a word of Spanish. He loves his father's family...almost irrationally. He wants so much to be like be Mexican like them.

Upon Danny's arrival to the neighbourhood, he takes part in a batting competition after being prodded by his cousin Sofia. Sofia is feisty and fiery and she loves her cousin. She protects him in the neighbourhood...sticks up for him when kids ask why Danny doesn't talk.

When Danny shows prowess with a baseball bat, Uno, one of the neighbourhood boys, has a problem with him. Uno doesn't like the competition. He clearly feels threatened, so he pitches Danny a bad ball. Danny struggles to get a piece of the errant pitch and accidentally sends his bat through the air...right into Uno's developmentally handicapped brother's face. Uno's reaction is to break Danny's face open with his fist. This causes Danny to slam his head into the ground.

This is not a great start to Uno and Danny's relationship.

The great surprise I discovered as I continued to read is that these two boys become best friends. The turn in their relationship begins at a local fair, when some of the boys take turns at a pitching cage equipped with a speed gun to measure the speed of a thrower's pitch. Uno's quick switch from bitter jealousy and dislike to admiration of Danny's gift is absolutely transformative.

From this point on in the story, I was delighted by the way the two boys grew their friendship. It was great to see Uno teach Danny to reign in his wild pitches, and to watch the two grow together and take on each other's better qualities. Uno turns out to be the best coach (both life-coach and pitching-coach) that Danny has ever had. And Danny blossoms under Uno's tutelage. His thoughtful inward personality actually seems to wear off on Uno over the course of the novel. It's just a great relationship to witness...well worth reading Mexican WhiteBoy for.

There are some great moments in this book...from the hustling scenes Uno and Danny participate in, to the parties the close-knit group of teens have, to the quiet moments Uno and Danny share at the train tracks.

There is also a LOT of darkness in this story. To begin with, Danny's father is GONE. Just gone. He doesn't know why, but the truth comes out along the way...and it is a truth that initially crushes Danny. It's his passionate cousin, Sofia, who helps him through the difficulty he experiences with this plot-line. Sofia and Uno, who seems wise beyond his years...and is so much more than the bully we thought he was at the beginning of the story.

I won't get into everything that goes on in this story...because it is so worth picking up. I don't want to spoil any more of the surprises that happen along the way. Just go get this book! You won't regret it. But here's a hint...GIVE IT TIME. If you're anything like me, you'll be quietly reading along and suddenly think, 'heh...this is good. This is real good.' It's the first book that snuck up on me in a long time. It starts out quiet, but the ride picks up until you realize you're absolutely 100% hooked in.

I would happily recommend this book to anyone. Matt de la Peña does an amazing job playing with the reader's expectations. Quiet shifts in his characters become explosions on the page. Once you start reading Mexican WhiteBoy, you will fall in love with these strong characters and delight over the way they play off one another.


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