The First Rule of Punk

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The First Rule of Punk Book Poster Image
Creative Latina finds her voice and pride in spirited tale.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Packed with themes and insights from a range of creative literature (José Martí, Sandra Cisneros, The Outsiders, Beverly Cleary, Robert Frost), artists (Frida Kahlo, José Guadalupe Posada, Diego Rivera, Jackson Pollock), ranchera singer Lola Beltrán, and diverse punk performers (Poly Styrene, the Ramones, Alice Bag, Blondie, Joe Strummer). Introduces aspects of Mexican dance, language, food, history, and culture. Outlines the Bracero program in the context of the immigrant experience. Lessons on how to make zines -- and how to make your voice heard.

Positive Messages

Be yourself, and proud of everything you are. Courage is being brave despite fear, and it helps you keep going when you risk getting stuck. Everyone is different in his or her own way. Do it yourself, and clean up when you make a mess. Stand up for what you believe. Being an activist and challenging authority doesn't necessarily require being disrespectful.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Malú is creative with a strong independent streak. She questions authority but tries to avoid being rude or disrespectful. She's courageous, working through fear and anxiety to take risks and pursue issues that are important to her. When she makes mistakes, she apologizes and tries to make things right. She's able to empathize with others in different circumstances -- including people she doesn't like. Her parents are loving and affectionate. While Malú and her mother often treat each other with impatience, when they listen to each other with open minds, they reach new understanding. An elderly neighbor and the friendly owner of a cafe take an interest in Malú and provide her with encouragement, support, and different perspectives.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The First Rule of Punk is about a 12-year-old Latina who loves punk and bristles at pressure to act as a model señorita. Malú's story -- the first book by librarian and zine-maker Celia C. Pérez -- is packed with samples of engagingly illustrated zines that explore her connections with her family, Mexico, feminism, and more. Malú is rebellious but respectful, by and large: She looks for opportunities to express herself within the lines established by her school and family (aside from a makeover done without her mother's knowledge). The power of creativity, the importance of speaking up against unfairness, and recognizing how your history informs your present are key themes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKjbartolotta January 12, 2018

Instant classic about self-expression and finding who you are

Parents and kids will love this book! Malú is a fun, spunky, utterly charming main character, and everyone will dig the positivity. But the book doesn't sh... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 16, 2020

Is this book worth the hype?

At my school, this book was so popular. It would be sold out every day, literally, I had to place a hold on it. But when I finally got my hands on this new, tre... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old October 28, 2019


Has a very positive message and appropriate and fun to read!

What's the story?

THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK is to be yourself. Twelve-year-old Malú is trying to be herself, but her mom (nicknamed "SuperMexican") pesters her to behave like una señorita, her new school says her preferred makeup and clothing violates the dress code, and a classmate calls her a "coconut": brown on the outside, white on the inside. Malú is excited when she falls in with a group of similarly spirited kids and they start a band. When the principal says they're too loud to participate in a talent show celebrating the school's Mexican namesake, Malú surprises herself with her resolve, her growing appreciation of her heritage, and her strong voice.

Is it any good?

In her bright, Latino-themed middle school misfit story, Celia C. Pérez shows how creative sparks fly when a frustrated punk girl takes a fresh look at her Mexican heritage and her unfolding future. Malú's search to find her people in The First Rule of Punk of course is a journey to find herself: She starts off full of ideas but unsure how to act on them once she's yanked out of her familiar life. She's a smart, engaging heroine, and Pérez surrounds her with wonderful women: an elderly neighbor, the punk-loving owner of a coffee shop, and her own mother, plus role models like punk musician Poly Styrene and artist Frida Kahlo.

Malú loves punk as a force for good: courage, resourcefulness, creativity, confidence, and kindness. Her embrace of punk music as a lifestyle and philosophical lens may encourage readers to think about their own worldview -- and to grab paper and scissors to craft their own zines.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about creativity and self-expression in The First Rule of Punk. Malú makes zines, listens to music, and starts performing herself -- what are your creative outlets?

  • Do you sometimes bristle at family expectations for you, like Malú does?

  • Malú and her friends take elements of traditional Mexican culture and transform them into something new. How do you feel about changing familiar traditions and customs?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Latino stories and strong girls

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