Mexican WhiteBoy

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Mexican WhiteBoy Book Poster Image
Emotional, violent story of teen looking for his identity.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This novel will make teen readers think about what it's like to be biracial and to feel a sense of racial identity. Offers a picture of Mexican American culture, including food and family life. However, the portrayal also may remind readers of stereotypes and prompt a discussion of preconceived ideas about Mexican Americans.

Positive Messages

If you feel like you don't belong, let others in and you won't feel so alone.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Danny doesn't handle all of his struggles well. He cuts himself, shuts down verbally when he feels insecure. But readers will see the way he changes, slowly warming to new friends and family, becoming more self-confident. Danny shows readers how important it is to connect with peers. His newfound self-confidence grows from self-awareness and inner strength. Danny's mom is White and dad is Mexican American. The novel represents a Mexican American family and community, but the violence and substance use and abuse shown border on stereotypes.

Violence

Several fistfights, including one in which a man is brutally beaten and then run over with a car. After another fight, a boy needs stitches. A boy is hit in the face with a baseball bat, breaking his teeth and nose. Reference to spousal abuse. Danny deliberately cuts himself.

Sex

Some teen kissing, mentions of STDs, and mild sexual fantasies. Teens and adults make references to prostitution and masturbation, as well as getting "laid" or getting "slick." A teen boy and girl go into a bedroom together.

Language

Teens and adults do plenty of swearing, such as "s--t," "f--k," "motherf----r," "bitch," "bastard," "ass," etc. Some racist language, including the slur "wetback," and a dark-skinned boy is called "blacky" and told to move his "black ass."

Consumerism

Lots of product brands are mentioned, including brands of soda (Coke, Pepsi), fast food (McDonald's), alcohol (Tecate, Bud Light, Pacifico), cars (Ford, Honda, Chevy).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens and adults smoke cigarettes, marijuana, and drink wine, beer, hard liquor and get drunk. Adults laugh when they catch teens drinking beer. Little kids are given sips of alcohol. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Matt de la Peña's novel Mexican WhiteBoy focuses on one summer in the life of a teen named Danny. With his mom and sister temporarily relocated to San Francisco, Danny spends his summer with cousins in National City, just outside of San Diego. Danny, whose mom is White and whose dad is Mexican American, wants very much to fit in with his dad's side of the family, but he feels out of place. Life in National City is portrayed as gritty, with teens swearing, drinking, and smoking marijuana, flirting and talking about sex. There's also significant violence in the novel. Several fistfights break out, a boy suffers an injury that requires stitches, and a man is beaten and hit by a car. Spousal abuse is also discussed. When he's unhappy, Danny engages in self-cutting. Many teens may identify with Danny's inner conflict about his identity, and his desire to fit in with family and friends who seem confident and connected. However, the novel's portrayal of Mexican Americans as violent drug and alcohol users can also be viewed as promoting stereotypes. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLKat95 October 24, 2011

Good multicultural title for high school boys

This book is the story of a boy who is struggling with his ethnic identity. He has a white mother and a Mexican father. Through his love of baseball, he makes f... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bythisloser December 14, 2010

good for teens

i think this book is great i hate reading i read a couple pages of this book then got cought in and read it all its very interesting
Kid, 12 years old April 20, 2013

The real stuff

Well this book is really good. Although the book has swears and some other stuff, those things are meant to be there. In lots of Latinos neighborhoods this is h... Continue reading

What's the story?

MEXICAN WHITEBOY describes one summer in the life of Danny, the son of a White mother and a Mexican American father. Danny hasn't seen his dad for a long time, and doesn't really know why he left. Meanwhile, Danny's mom and her new boyfriend are spending the summer in San Francisco, so Danny has elected to stay for a few months with his dad's relatives in National City, outside of San Diego. Danny longs to fit in with the Mexican side of his family, but he feels he doesn't belong anywhere. He's also been struggling with the fact that, though he has exceptional talent, he has been cut from his high school baseball team because he chokes under pressure. Danny believes his dad is living in Mexico, and he longs to find him and reconnect. Meanwhile, he's getting to know his dad's relatives, working on his baseball pitches, making new friends, and trying to negotiate a world that's a bit rougher than he's used to.

Is it any good?

A biracial teen tries to get to know his Mexican side in this gritty coming-of-age story. In Mexican WhiteBoy, author Matt de la Peña creates a heartbreakingly sympathetic main character in Danny. Inside the boy's head, his pain is understandable, and his flailing efforts to fit in are typically and relatably adolescent. It's wonderful to observe all that Danny discovers about himself as he begins to connect with family and new friends. His tendency to turn his pain inward doesn't change, but everything looks brighter when he has friends. De la Peña is masterful in showing Danny's inner life transforming in subtle ways. Another wonderful aspect of la Peña's writing is his ability to describe sports and physical fights so that the reader can easily visualize the action.

Lacking in nuance, however, is the world de la Peña creates in National City, where Mexican Americans are portrayed as consuming excessive amounts of food, beer, and tequila, allowing their children to drink alcohol, and flying off the handle. This novel offers a tender portrayal of a teen's inner struggles, but a less sensitive view of Mexican American families. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how biracial characters are portrayed in Mexican WhiteBoy. What other books and movies can you think of that feature teens with multiple identities? What are some of the common themes in these stories?

  • What do you think about the way Mexican Americans and White Americans are portrayed in the novel? How are they different and similar? Do the characters seem realistic to you?

  • Why is it that sometimes Danny can't pitch as well as he can at other times? What's going on with him? How does he master the problem?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Latinx stories and coming-of-age tales

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