The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez (review)
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Reviewed by
Pérez, Celia C. The First Rule of Punk. Viking, 2017 [336p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-425-29040-8 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-425-29041-5 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7

Sure, Malú is half-Mexican and half-white, but with her “sloppy” Spanish, aversion to cilantro, and love of American punk culture, she often doesn’t feel very Mexican—that is, until her life in Baltimore is uprooted and quickly replanted in the rich cultural soil of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Here everything is infused with a Mexican-American twist: the local coffee shop, the (still disgusting) middle-school lunchroom selections, and even her beloved punk rock. When Malú decides to enter an impromptu band of punk misfits into the school talent show and they’re turned down, she takes matters into her own hands remembering the first rule of punk: be yourself. A familiar story of preteen angst and rebellion is made memorable through Malú’s distinct voice and narration as she attempts to make sense of middle-school drama, unfair family decisions, and the implications of being both biracial and bicultural. Included in the text are short zine chapters that creatively pull together Malú’s musings about events like being called a coconut—“brown on the outside, white on the inside”—and the realization that punk music knows no one language. Pérez draws heavily on the intersections of community that are integral to Mexican-American culture, seamlessly weaving characters into multiple settings, giving depth to their personhood and emphasizing the close-knit and inclusive feel of her neighborhood. It is this element that makes Malú’s obvious growth by the end of the book so rewarding, as everyone comes together to rock out. It’s not an easy task, but in the words of Malú, “Find your people. Just remember that your people aren’t always who you’d expect.”

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