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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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