Sometimes sports allow us to connect with people we wouldn’t otherwise know how to talk to. In Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena, Danny doesn’t speak to anyone unless he absolutely has to. While visiting his dad’s relatives over the summer he finally starts to fit in when they all realize that he loves baseball as much as they do. It turns out that he’s actually a really talented pitcher, but he’s not playing on a team because he loses his control as soon as he faces a live batter.
Part of the reason Danny’s spending the summer with his dad’s family is because Danny thinks his dad left the family because Danny wasn’t Mexican enough. With a blonde-haired blue-eyed white mother, Danny thinks his father got tired of living in a white world and hopes that by spending the summer with his Mexican relatives, his dad will see that he’s Mexican enough for him to come back.
Through his friendship with one of the other guys in the neighborhood, Danny is able to work through his problems on the mound and start to see his way through the problems with his family.
This book was nominated for the Abraham Lincoln Award last year for best fiction for high school audiences, and with the combination of a good sports story and intense family drama, I can see why so many people liked it.