The First Rule of Punk

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Written by Celia C. Pérez

Malú (don’t call her María Luisa) is happy in Florida, where her favorite thing to do is hang out at her dad’s record store, and she takes it hard when she has to move away with her mother, a straitlaced Mexican literature professor, to Chicago. There, at Posada Middle School, she finds herself at odds with the school administrators, who don’t approve of her punk fashion aesthetic, as well as the popular kids, who refer to her as a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside.) Gradually she meets people in the community, such as a tattooed, soyrizo-serving Mexican café owner who doesn’t care that Malú asks for her food with no cilantro, who show her the depth and variations of Mexican culture and open up for her the possibility that she doesn’t have to choose only either/or when it comes to her interests and heritage. With this growing knowledge she pulls together a group of musician friends with a secret plan to pre-empt the school’s traditional talent show with their own punk ranchera music. Can she pull it off, and does she dare to reveal this part of herself to her extremely traditional mother?

This is an endearing coming-of-age story of a strong but imperfect young heroine trying hard to figure out who she is and how she can fit her identity and interests with the expectations of her mother and her community. The book provides windows into the punk/rock/DIY/zine subcultures, Mexican-American culture, and the rich but less-often explored intersections of the two. Experiences of growing up biracial, growing up with divorced parents, and growing up with parents who are very different from each other are also deftly explored. The embedded zines, included by the author as if created by Malú, are engaging interludes that break up the text, add to the authentic, unique feel of the book, and make it a nice recommendation or step-up read for fans of realistic graphic novels like Roller Girl. The book also provides potential for all kinds of enrichment activities, ranging from zine-making to explorations of Mexican art/culture to music discovery (the author shares a playlist of kid-friendly punk rock and ranchera on her website.) Highly recommended.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Library Media Program, Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 5-8

The First Rule of Punk
Written by Celia C. Pérez
Viking
310 pages
Release Date: August 22, 2017

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