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Mexican Whiteboy

Moving, violent book about teen looking for his identity.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This gripping book could inspire some important discussions about what it's like to grow up as a mixed-raced teen in today's world. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for some ideas.

Positive messages

This is a coming-of-age story about a boy who feels caught between two cultures and must find his own identity and faith in himself.

Positive role models

Readers who come from mixed racial or ethnic backgrounds will find it easy to relate to Danny and his feelings of not belonging in either world.


Several fistfights: in one of them a man is brutally and graphically beaten, probably to death, though this is not clear, then run over with a car, snapping his bones. In another a boy requires stitches afterwards. A boy is hit in the face with a baseball bat, breaking his teeth and nose. A reference to spousal abuse. Also, Danny, unhappy with his life, cuts himself.


Some kissing, mentions of STDs, some mild sexual fantasies, references to prostitution and masturbation, getting "laid," a boy and girl go into a bedroom together and don't come out.


Plenty of swearing, including "s--t", "f--k,"" motherf--r," and more.


Lots of product brands mentioned, many approvingly, some repeatedly: clothes, shoes, fast food, soft drinks, sports equipment, alcohol, and cars.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some smoking, teens and adults drink wine, beer, and hard liquor and get drunk, adults give sips of alcohol to small children, some smoking of marijuana.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a book about a teen who feels caught between two cultures. There is some gritty material, including swearing, marijuana smoking, sex talk, and most especially, violence: Amidst plenty of swearing and fistfights, there is one brutally graphic scene in which a man is beaten, probably to death, and then run over, snapping his bones. Also, Danny, unhappy with his life, cuts himself. But ultimately this is a moving and engrossing novel that will resonate with many teens. Readers who come from mixed racial or ethnic backgrounds will find it easy to relate to Danny and his feelings of not belonging in either world.

What's the story?

Danny, son of a white mother and a Mexican father, hasn't seen his dad for a long time, and doesn't really know why he left. Danny has real talent for baseball, especially pitching, but he has been cut from his team because he chokes under pressure and his pitches go wild. With his darker skin, he doesn't fit in at the upscale private school he attends. Now he's spending the summer with his cousins and uncles in National City, hoping to figure out where he belongs, and why his father left. But he doesn't feel he fits in there either, and the truth about his father is more complicated than he imagines.

Is it any good?


Author Matt de la Pena makes his protagonist real and heartbreakingly sympathetic. Inside Danny's head, his pain is very understandable, and his flailing efforts to do something about it are all-too typically adolescent. 

Danny seems to have everything going for him: he's a smart, straight-A student and a gifted athlete, good-looking, with a loving, supportive family and a new rich about-to-be stepfather. And yet he's utterly miserable, so much so that he is virtually mute, and has taken to cutting himself. Danny is an unusually fully-realized character, and the author weaves his character and feelings with a level of subtle understanding rare in teen novels. One incident of violence, though integral to the plot, may seem excessively described, and readers will find it hard to put out of their heads. But de la Pena delivers exciting sports action and some terrific supporting players, especially Danny's enemy turned friend Uno, and Uno's pontificating father. This is a moving and engrossing novel that will resonate with many teens.


Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about being multiracial or multiethnic. What other books and movies can you think of that tackle teen with multiple identities? What are some of the common themes in these stories?

  • Do you think it is easier for multiracial kids today than it was a generation ago? Why or why not?

  • Discuss the violence in this book: Is it necessary to convey Danny's story? Is reading about violence different than seeing in a movie or experiencing it in a video game? How so?

Book details

Author:Matt de la Pena
Genre:Family Life
Topics:Sports and martial arts
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:August 1, 2008
Number of pages:249
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17

This review of Mexican Whiteboy was written by

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Adult Written byerikgunderson February 25, 2009

Flight of the Navigator

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 friends and enemies and discovers a lot about himself and both of his families. I would recommend this book for a high school reader, it is important to know what all children are going through in their lives, not just the life they know. The author based this book on his real life experiences.
Teen, 13 years old Written byallidaughter August 8, 2011

Real Life

It has everything a book could need to intrigue you. It helps teach how other people suffer or enjoy life. It may be a bit innaproptiate at times but it teaches the truth and will probably create many questions you should answer. Also this book has many spanish words that are "bad words" so if you are not familar with the language it may be difficult for some readers.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking