A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Matt de la Peña
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: August 1, 2008
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 249
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 21, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love Latinx stories and coming-of-age tales
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.