How to Win the Battle with Yourself
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
MEXICAN WHITE BOY
De la Pena, M., Leyva, H., & Audio, B. (2013). Mexican WhiteBoy. Brilliance Audio. ASIN B00EFB2Q2K
Sixteen-year-old Danny Lopez is 6 feet, tall, skinny, and shy, and he feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere. Danny is half-Mexican; his father is Mexican, and his mother is white. At his private school, where he plays baseball, he’s not white enough. He has a ninety-five mile an hour fastball, but he’s not even on the team. Every time he gets up on the mound, he loses it and lacks self-control. After Danny’s mom and sister decide to spend the summer in San Francisco, Danny goes to National City to spend the summer with his dad’s family. But Danny feels out of place here too because he’s not Mexican enough. He can’t even speak Spanish. In fact, Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico. But with the support of his cousin, Sophia, and a new friendship that he never saw coming, Danny begins to deal with the multitude of problems in his life, which includes his tendency to cut himself. This summer, to find himself, Danny may just have to face the demons he refuses to see – the demons that are right in front of his face.
Danny lives in two worlds but does not belong anywhere. After deciding to spend the summer with his dad’s family instead of going with his mom and sister to San Francisco, Danny finds himself thrust into his cousin, Sofia’s, life. The initial dialogue with Sofia and her friends is written in street slang that is interwoven with Spanish. It is initially hard to follow, and I had to slow down to reread it a few times. Readers, like Danny, are made to feel like outsiders among the hard-edged crowd in National City.
As Danny is introduced to Sofia’s friends, he realizes that they have more in common than he realized. Her friends love to play baseball, Danny’s favorite sport, and it is through this sport that Danny forms real friendships. One of those friendships is with a boy named Uno, who is an unlikely match in the beginning, but the boys ultimately become best friends. The novel is told in third person present and switches back and forth between chapters that focus on these two protagonists. Both main characters, Danny and Uno, struggle with their racial identity. Danny is half-white and half-Mexican, while Uno is half-Mexican and half-Black. The fast-paced baseball story is an honest portrayal of the complexities of life of inner-city teens, framed in the context of broken homes and bicultural pressures. At its core, this is a story of one boy's experience of coming to terms with his identity as he comes of age but offers hope to those readers who live in seemingly hopeless situations. It is definitely a book geared toward a mature audience, such as high school readers. There are references to drugs, sex, underage drinking, strong language, and violence.
The audio version of this book by Brilliance Audio had me second guessing my selection in the beginning. The narrator's cadence started slow, so I increased the speed. However, it quickly shifts into female character’s speaking street slang, which made it hard to follow, so I slowed it back down. This was my first time listening to this narrator, Henry Leyva, so I wanted to give it a couple of chapters before I decided to abort the mission. Ultimately, he did an excellent job narrating most of the characters, but the female voices would have benefited from a different narrator. Although, at times, I would read some from the text if I was having trouble following the audio. For this book, I listened to the unabridged version on Audible. Other than my initial concerns, the sound quality was excellent and the narration was very fitting for the majority of the characters.
Danny lives in two worlds but doesn't belong anywhere. The kids at his private school never let him forget that he is half Mexican. His cousins are uneasy around him because he is too white; he doesn't speak Spanish or fit into their San Diego barrio culture. The one place Danny feels accepted is on the baseball field, where his ninety-five-mile-per-hour fastball gets everyone's attention. But Danny only wants the attention of one person: his father. Danny imagines becoming a star pitcher and making his father proud enough to return from Mexico. Despite his natural talent, Danny pitches wildly every time a big-league scout is watching, until he meets Uno, a tough street thug who offers unexpected friendship and teaches him to let his talent take control and release the hurt inside. This fast-paced baseball story is unique in its gritty realism and honest portrayal of the complexities of life for inner-city teens, framed in the context of the emotional confusion of broken homes and bicultural pressures. De la Pena poignantly conveys the message that, despite obstacles, you must believe in yourself and shape your own future.
Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2008)
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. 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.
School Library Journal (September 1, 2008)
Notable Book for a Global Society, 2009
ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults (Top 10 Pick), 2008
VOYA Starred, 2008
21 Books with Multiracial Main Characters https://www.epicreads.com/blog/multiracial-protagonists/
Identity — Danny lives in two worlds but doesn’t belong anywhere. The kids at his private school never let him forget that he is half Mexican. But when he visits the Mexican side of his family, Danny feels he is too white. He doesn’t even speak Spanish.
Isolation — Danny disengages from both worlds, rarely speaking and running his mind in circles. He begins to deal with the multitude of problems in his life, which include his tendency to cut himself.
Self-Reliance — Danny’s growth as a baseball pitcher becomes a metaphor for the conflicts he must overcome due to his biracial heritage and absentee father.