27 February 2010

Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena & Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos

Two boys. One is half Mexican and half white. The other is Cuban but looks white on the outside. One is devoted to baseball, and the other is obsessed with comic books. Both are temporarily relocated (one by choice, one intends to never make a return trip). One is written into the 1960's/1970's culture and the other resides in a contemporary setting. Both must deal with alcohol, drugs, abuse, and romance, with varying degrees of positive and negative results.

In Mexican WhiteBoy, Danny doesn't know where he fits in. He relates most to his Mexican heritage, feeling more comfortable with his extended Mexican family than with his white mother. When his mom moves to San Francisco with her new boyfriend, Danny decides to stay the summer with dad's side of the family in San Diego County, hoping to connect with his Spanish culture and to find his dad. Things don't go as planned and the only thing Danny finds that he can truly connect is a baseball with a catcher's mitt. With the added perspective of Uno's voice, a black kid born and raised on the streets of San Diego, Danny ultimately finds a way to feel at home.

Rico doesn't feel like he fits in with his Cuban parents or his Harlem school in Dark Dude either, being a Latino with light hair and white skin. Leaving just a brief note for his parents, he hitchhikes to Wisconsin to stay with a neighborhood friend on a farm. Focusing on creating his comic book story and on his new girl, he tries to accept where he fits into his own world.

Both boys struggle for acceptance -- from others and inside their own minds. And eventually each learns what it takes to get it.

Recommended to high school readers.
Call number for Mexican WhiteBoy: YA PENA (Teen Room)
Call number for Dark Dude: YA HIJUELOS (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

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