Archive | 9:32 AM

Book Review: Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña (3/5)

27 Feb

I’m going to be getting into a lot of audiobooks that I got through the summer YA program at my library. It’s a really good way to build up my TBR and I haven’t been great at getting them knocked off. I’m hoping to take a chunk of them down this year, starting here.


Cover image via Amazon

Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña

Summary from Amazon:

Danny is tall and skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. Ninety-five mile an hour fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound, he loses it.

But at his private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny is brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. But it works the other way too. And Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico.

That’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. But to find himself, he may just have to face the demons he refuses to see–the demons that are right in front of his face. And open up to a friendship he never saw coming.

This book had a lot going for it, but I don’t think it really delivered what I wanted on any of it. It had sports psychology, racial tensions, complicated family relationships, family secrets, and identity issues. I didn’t feel like any of them had a solid resolution and there were a lot of things left gaping when the book wrapped up. It had a good way of wrapping up the plot line of Danny’s father, but there was a lot that was left very open and didn’t give me a way to think it would be resolved. It was almost as if things got cut to keep the book shorter, but they weren’t cut completely. Also, it felt like it took a while for the book to get started. Maybe it’s because it took me longer to get through the beginning of this book since I didn’t feel engaged with it for a while.

I liked the characters in this book. The teens felt authentic and the ways they talked and interacted felt real. There weren’t many adults in the story and many of them seemed aloof. Danny’s uncles were very interchangeable to me until the very end and I felt silly because I couldn’t remember who was who. There wasn’t a good maternal example in this book. Both Uno and Danny’s moms were very easily dismissed and seemed very out of touch with their kids. It was a little frustrating.

Danny grew a lot in this book and I liked him more as the story went on. He was very emotional but he kept everything inside and wrapped up tightly. At the beginning, I couldn’t understand why he was so closed off, but it begins to make more and more sense as we learn about how out of place he feels and how disconnected he feels to an identity that he also clings to. His friendship with Uno helps him thrive in a way he couldn’t have back home. I worry about how disconnected he seems from school and his mother and that when he goes back to school, he’ll revert to how he was before the summer.

I felt like the most relatable part of Danny’s story was his crush on Liberty. I remember having a crush on a boy at first sight and being too terrified to talk to them. Friends pushing you together can be frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. It was a childhood throw back for me for sure.


Matt de la Peña Image via NPR



Danny’s relationship with his father was the most interesting part of the book to me. He idealized his father and his life for so long that he wanted to be just like him. Finding out more about his dad seemed difficult for Danny. He didn’t want to know anything outside of the idealized man he remembered. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it seemed like things came full circle for Danny in this regard. I thought this plotline had the most closure. Though the letters he was sending seemed to pop up in the middle of the book and seemed a bit odd at first until I got used to that style.

Uno’s story seemed really incomplete to me. I wanted more and it just wasn’t there. I wanted to hear more about Manny and his relationship with his brother. I wanted to hear more about his dad and why Uno wanted to live with him so badly. I wanted to hear more about the trouble he was getting into that he was so desperate to get away from. For being a major character, Uno felt a bit roughly drawn.

My audiobook was narrated by Henry Leyva. I thought he was a good choice for Danny. When I started, I thought there was going to be a lot more Spanish in the book than there ended up being but it was great that Leyva was able to vocalize that well. I liked when Leyva did the voices of the young men as they ragged on each other. The inflection he gave their taunts and boasts was wonderful.

Danny’s stuck in a lot of ways. He’s stuck between his parents and the identities that they both have. He’s also stuck mentally when it comes to baseball. I thought this manifestation of his identity was a bit on the nose, but it was also cleared up and I’m not sure if Danny felt any kind of closure when it came to his dual identity. I think his relationship with Sophia will help him feel more tethered to both sides of his family and I hope it’s a part of himself he doesn’t struggle with as much in the future.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book tried to do a lot and I think it did a disservice to some of those things by not narrowing its focus. I thought it would talk a lot more overtly about identity because of the title and description. Danny didn’t seem to feel as out of place because of his ‘Mexican Whiteboy’ identity but more because of his education. We hear very little about the education or schooling of the other teens because it’s the summer, but we hear a lot about Danny’s education. It seemed to be a divide but without much context. I only wished that the title was a little more indicative of the content.

An enjoyable read, but not a standout to me. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena | Young Adult Lit Reviews
Educator’s Guide: Mexican Whiteboy | Vamos a leer
Matt de la Peña’s ‘Mexican Whiteboy’ | Library Mix Archive
What It Means To Be Biracial (A Discussion of “Mexican White Boy”) | The Misfortune of Knowing