Maybe it’s because she’s spent most of her free time in her dad’s record shop, but twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill Morales, known as Malú to her friends, loves punk rock. It’s the rhythm to her life, the thumping music which she pumps through her headphones while making zines, which she dances to in her dad’s apartment above his record store, and which she wishes was playing at home with her mom. But Malú’s mom doesn’t get punk rock; instead, she’s determined for Malú to embrace her Mexican heritage and become a little señorita, which is definitely not punk.
But everything changes when her mom has to temporarily move to Chicago for work—and Malú has to come with her. That’s two whole years away from her friends, her dad, and her life. At her new school, Malú gets bullied for her love of punk rock and her aversion to all things Mexican, as if to better prove Chicago is not the place for her.
Then her school announces a talent show, and Malú decides to try out punk herself. She starts a band with a couple of classmates to show the school her kind of music. Even as they face kickback, Malú and her bandmates—or are they friends? –keep going, because they have a song to share with the world.
And maybe it’ll help Malú figure out how to be punk and Mexican, at the same time.
The First Rule of Punk is a fun story about music, friendship, and standing out. Malú is a funny, sympathetic and determined main character with a streak of rebelliousness who I wanted to succeed. I particularly like how Celia C. Pérez (author of Strange Birds) weaves so many elements—punk rock, family, divorce, heritage, friendship, and more—into a seamless and natural story. I recommend The First Rule of Punk to readers ages nine and up.