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Mexican WhiteBoy Hardcover – August 12, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—No matter where he lives, 16-year-old Danny Lopez is an outsider. At his private high school in wealthy northern San Diego County, "nobody paid him any attention…because he was Mexican." It didn't matter that he was half white. But when he visits the Mexican side of his family in National City, just a dozen miles from the border, Danny feels "Albino almost" and ashamed. He doesn't even speak Spanish. Rather than learning to blend in, Danny disengages from both worlds, rarely speaking and running his mind in circles with questions about how he might have kept his absent father from leaving the family. He decides to spend the summer in National City, hoping to get closer to his dad's roots and learn how to be "real" and stop feeling numb. Instead, he finds that, by the end of the summer, he has filled the void through unexpected friendship and love. In this first-rate exploration of self-identity, Danny's growth as a baseball pitcher becomes a metaphor for the conflicts he must overcome due to his biracial heritage. Dialogue written in a coarse street vernacular and interwoven with Spanish is awkward to read at first—like Danny, readers are made to feel like outsiders among the hard-edged kids of National City. But as the characters develop, their language starts to feel familiar and warm, and their subtle tenderness becomes more apparent. A mostly linear plot (with occasional flashbacks), plenty of sports action, and short chapters make this book a great pick for reluctant or less-experienced readers.—Madeline Walton-Hadlock, San Jose Public Library, CA
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From Booklist

Biracial Danny Lopez doesn’t think he fits anywhere. He feels like an outsider with his Mexican father’s family, with whom he is staying for the summer, and at his mostly white school, and he wonders if his confusion drove his father away. He also struggles with his obsession for baseball; a gifted player with a blazing fastball, he lacks control of his game. With the support of a new friend and his caring cousins, Danny begins to deal with the multitude of problems in his life, which include his tendency to cut himself, an unusual characteristic in a male YA protagonist. The author juggles his many plotlines well, and the portrayal of Danny’s friends and neighborhood is rich and lively. Where the story really lights up is in the baseball scenes, which sizzle like Danny’s fastball. A violent scene, left somewhat unresolved, is the catalyst for him to confront the truth about his father. Danny’s struggle to find his place will speak strongly to all teens but especially to those of mixed race. Grades 9-12. --Lynn Rutan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385733100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385733106
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #885,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. D. Charney on November 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the most crucial thematic moments in "Mexican WhiteBoy," Matt de la Peña's new novel about a half-white, half-Mexican teenager struggling with his identity, happens when the father of his best friend, Uno, discusses poverty: "It's people who wander into your city, Uno. They the only ones who could see your life for what it is. National City, boy. Ain't but a forgotten slice of America's finest city. And you know what's on the tip of all y'all's tongues? Each and every one of y'all?"

The word he is getting at is "money," or some variation thereof, and the setting for his sermon is San Diego County, one of America's many cultural conundrums, where well-to-do whites inhabit plush beachfront property just miles from the border with impoverished Tijuana. De la Peña explored poverty in his previous book, "Ball Don't Lie," but this time he probes deeper, suggesting that the forces that divide us are far more complicated than class and race combined. Instead, all Americans reside on a hazy border between confusion and self-realization.

Raised by his white mother but sent to live with his father's Mexican family for the summer, title character Danny is caught between two worlds and two identities. At his upscale prep school where he was cut from the baseball team - because, in spite of his powerful pitching arm, he tends to choke on the mound - he is a "lowly" Mexican. But here, in a poor Hispanic neighborhood, he's a white boy with a brilliant mind (though he rarely speaks it) and a bright future.

During his stay, Danny befriends Uno, whose father is black and whose mother is Mexican. Both boys long for their fathers. Danny's is supposedly in Mexico; Uno's is a few hours north in Oxnard.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not a boy, I am not Mexican and I am no longer a teenager but I could relate to Danny. More than that I cared what happened to him. As I turned the pages I was angry with him, disconnected, in pain or feeling his triumphs. And that is just on Danny, what about Senior. I couldn't be farther from Senior when you compare our stats but when his words were on the page I would read and reread them feeling the need to absorb. I can't say enough about this book. Mexican White Boy is a brilliant piece of writing.
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Format: Hardcover
The great strength of the story is the relationship between Danny and Uno, two kids who start out as rivals and end up the best of friends. The author does an excellent job of telling each of their stories, of presenting them in a way that lets me understand the issues they face, even though I come from an entirely different background. The story is extremely entertaining and well-paced, often combining moments of laugh-out-loud comedy with traces of melancholy and even sadness. Whether you're a baseball fan or not, you'll enjoy the story of these two kids as they navigate the pitfalls of teenage life, cope with family issues, and listen to the preaching of Uno's hilarious (and at times insightful) father, Senior.
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By Sofia G. on December 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Matt de la Pena has been one of those authors that I have been meaning to read but kept putting him on the back burner. I was reminded of him because of the most recent banned book week and I heard how his books are banned in Arizona. Latin kids shouldn't read books where characters are struggling to identify themselves with their Latin and American roots. Did I just generalize? Yeah maybe... But truly its a damn shame to ban books featuring Latino kids as main characters where actually Latinos might read said books. Anyways, getting off my soap box and back to the book review. Big mistake for putting this book on the back burner. I really enjoyed it. I could identify with the characters and the language that was spoken. As the story went along the characters grew on me and I just kept rooting for them. I really sad that this book ended because I just wanted more. I wanted to know what else happens to them. Overall it was a great book and I plan on reading more from Matt de la Pena.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great text for struggling readers, Mexican Whiteboy is a great novel to recommend to younger boys who do not enjoy reading. With a lot of talk of baseball and conflict with his father, our main character Danny is a likeable kid. He leaves his mainly white, upper class neighborhood to spend the summer with his cousin in the town where his dad grew up, which is filled primarily with Mexican Americans. Danny wins the respect of the other boys because he is a really gifted baseball player. After he gets off to a rocky start with Uno, who used to be the best ball player around. Eventually, the two become friends and run hustles on kids from other neighborhoods to make some cash. Both boys deal with absent fathers and Danny deals with his identity crisis of being half-white and half-Mexican, especially when he falls in love with a young girl who only speaks Spanish, something he never learned.
My favorite part of this text was the dialogue amongst the kids. De La Pena does a good job of writing teenages who speak like teenagers. I often found myself smiling while reading the kids ribbing on each other. I felt like I became part of their group of friends. Danny also deals with self-harm, which I think is a very important topic to broach with today's youth. I appreciated that Mexican Whiteboy has an example of a male dealing with self-harm, which is a struggle usually associated with girls. This text shows a likable, athletic, boy dealing with trauma and emotions, something that is often ignored or discouraged in young men.
And this is a definitely a text aimed at young men. If, like me, you are not particularly interested in baseball (or even sports in general) you can often feel like the novel is dragging a little. However, I would definitely recommend it to boys, especially ones dealing with anxiety or other emotional issues. I think this text could really help a young person feel less alone.
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