Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The First Rule of Punk

32050089Perez, Celia C. The First Rule of Punk
August 22nd 2017 by Viking
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Malu's (Maria Luisa) mother gets a two year visiting professorship in Chicago, she has to leave her father and his record shop in Gainesville. Malu and her father love punk rock music, and her mother is not a fan, so Malu really wishes she could stay with her father. Even though she makes an impassioned plea in an artfully crafted zine, she is living in Chicago before she knows it. It's a fun, quirky neighborhood with lots of other Hispanic residents, which delights Malu's mother but doesn't break through Malu's irritation. On the first day of school, she wears heavy eyeliner despite her mother's objections, and gets sent to the auditorium for a dress code violation talk. There, she meets a boy who has dyed his hair blue (but dresses like Henry Huggins!) who ends up being the son of the local coffee shop owner, Ms. Hildago, and the grandson of her neighbor. Malu's school career doesn't go well, since she has run afoul of the popular Selena, so when a school talent show is announced, she gathers a few people to form a band (the CoCos, after Selena's slur that she is a "coconut"). When they don't make the cut during auditions because they are too loud and not traditional enough to honor the school's namesake Jose Posada, Malu decides to embrace the rules of punk and have an alternative concert. The band, and Malu, continue to have rocky times, but ultimately are able to be appreciated for being true to themselves.
Strengths: It's nice to see a middle grade character with specific interests, and one who takes initiative to change circumstances she doesn't like. Stories about moving are always popular with my readers, and I thought it was interesting that Malu moved to a neighborhood that seemed like a better fit for her, even though she didn't want to recognize it. The zines between the chapters are interesting, the various characters well drawn and unique, and the celebration of Hispanic culture is more in depth than in many books I have read.
Weaknesses: I had a different concept of zines in my head-- Malu's work seemed more like scrap booking to me, but the author is well known for her own zines. Also, Malu's love of punk culture doesn't seem to be doing her any favors, and I found myself identifying more with her mother! (Go wash that gunk off your eyes, young lady, and put on a clean shirt!)
What I really think: I will definitely buy a copy. Many of my students have requested displays of Hispanic literature for Octobers Hispanic Heritage Month, and this will be a good title to include.

Mathieu, Jennifer. Moxie
September 19th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss

Vivian is tired of the crap going on in her Texas high school. The girls are constantly subjected to ridiculous dress codes, as well as humiliating classroom checks that result in girls being publicly called out and sent to the office, while the boys are allowed to where highly offensive t-shirts that are sexually harassing. They also don't get in trouble for groping girls in the hallway, and even when one football players is reported for attempting to rape a girl at a party, it's swept under the rug. Since Vivian is a "good girl" whose mother was an outspoken, punk type in the 1990s, Vivian decides to handle these jerks by making a 'zine and trying to get the girls in her school to stand up for themselves. There is a new boy from Austin, Seth, who is helpful to Vivian, and on whom she has a crush. He is a good guy, and not only helps her cause, but is nice to her, unlike the other Neanderthals. The entire culture at Vivian's high school is corrupt, but her actions eventually uncover some misdeeds for which adults in authority are finally able to be punished.
Strengths: This is a timely novel that will be embraced by young women who adopted the "pussy hat" and are being more politically active. The sub plot with Vivian's mother dating a conservative man was interesting to me, and her grandparents are fantastic characters. I'd love to see more socially aware male characters like Seth.
Weaknesses: This is a young adult novel, and there is some salty language and some drinking. I also found it very difficult to believe that boys were able to be so openly abusive, and that the administration handled the dress code in such a way. At my school, male teachers will ask a female teacher to talk to girls if there's something very flagrant (Really, can we still make it against the dress code for girls' butt cheeks to hang out? Or is that insensitive? I don't want to see that view of boys, either!), and we always try to do it very quietly.
What I really think: I had problems with the philosophies on a personal level. I believe in a polite, modestly dressed feminism, but this would not have stopped me from getting back at the jerk football player and his father. I wouldn't have done something publicly at school like Vivian did; I would have set fire to the family's back porch during a football game. No one would have blamed me because I was quiet and ladylike. However, I was falsely accused of running an underground newspaper in high school, so perhaps my views were not as hidden as I had hoped.
Ms. Yingling

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