Matt de la Pena’s second novel for young adults, Mexican WhiteBoy, tells the engrossing story of Danny, a 17 year-old young man who doesn’t feel that he fits in anywhere. Certainly not in his primarily white private school north of San Diego, and even less, he feels, in National City, San Diego, with his Mexican father’s extended family. Danny struggles with feelings of being an outsider since at school he’s seen as a Mexican kid, and in his family he’s not Mexican enough.
Danny comes to National City to spend the summer at his uncle’s place. His white mother and sister are in San Francisco with his mom’s new white boyfriend. Danny aches for his missing father, whom he believes fled to Mexico years before to escape the shame of having a white wife and 2 half white/half Mexican children. Danny’s one escape is baseball – he’s got a 90 mile-an-hour fastball – and it’s in the game where he feels most connected to himself and to his missing father. He wholly believes that if he can be good enough at baseball, he can convince his dad he’s worthy of love and acceptance.
In the neighborhood Danny meets Uno, a half Mexican, half African American teen who is struggling with acceptance issues of his own. He and his brother live the Mexican neighborhood with their Mexican mother and Mexican step-father and Uno is reminded daily of his unability to fit in to this world. When Mexican WhiteBoy begins, Uno is struggling with anger and frustation and that may quickly slip into a life of violence and crime.
Danny and Uno form an tight friendship as they come together to face the demons they have both avoided. de la Pena weaves these two characters together so well they feel like two sides of the same coin – it’s a powerful story of acceptance, courage, friendship and the struggle to find your own identity in a world of definitions and divisions.
- Posted by Cori