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  • Elizabeth Garcia

Review: First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

Full disclosure on this one. The author of The First Rule of Punk and I attended the same high school and were great friends. And thanks to the miracle of Facebook we’ve reconnected after losing touch for a few decades.

I also read this book months ago when it first came out but had not been able to write my review because I wanted to do a perfect job in talking about her book. How do I talk about my friend’s book without sounding like a gushing fan girl? Luckily, the book truly is amazing and it’s received a whole bunch of awards to back this up, so my gushing isn’t biased, people. It truly is an awesome book and you need to go out and get it ASAP!

Malú (short for Maria Luisa) is not your stereotypical Latina middle schooler. She loves punk rock music, zines, and Soyrizo and does not, I repeat, does not like cilantro! So not only is she different as a Latina kid, but she’s also a different kind of Latina kid, which makes this young adult novel a wonderful way to talk about differences in general and how to accept your own no matter what, which according to Malú’s Dad is the first rule of punk: Be Yourself.

Making matters worse for Malú is that she now has to navigate her differences in a new school in Chicago where her and her English professor Mom have recently moved to. Malú finds kindred spirits in a Vegan Latina baker and her son, who both also like punk rock music, but introduce Malú to Latino punk bands that she’d never heard about before, which affirms Malú’s identities as both a Latina and a punk rock lover. I love that Malú is not the only one that breaks the Latina mold of identity, but that there are multiple Latina characters such as her college professor Mom, that go beyond the usual images of who or what Latinas are supposed to be.

Illustrated throughout the novel are also samples of some of the zines Malú makes and also includes a how to at the end of the book. I of course follow Celia on social media and one of the things I love about the book is that it has inspired the current generation of kids to discover zine making, as evidenced by the events Celia has attended where kids either make zines or talk about zine making with her.

Zines are a wonderful artsy, crafty, way for kids to explore and express the issues that affect their contemporary lives. Given the many challenges that we see our kids facing these days, particularly with the horrific school shootings taking place, zines are a great alternative media for kids to document and share how this issue affects their lives.

Ok, so enough gushing. I wish this book had been around when my daughter was Malú’s age and was going through her own difficulties of being different as a Latina kid in her own middle school. It would’ve been such a great way for her to have seen her own challenges represented and had a role model of how to Be herself. I am overflowing with pride for my bud Celia and her fantastic debut and can’t wait to see what she has in store for her next book.

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