The First Rule of Punk

The First Rule of Punk
Age Range
Release Date
August 22, 2017
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There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She'll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Editor review

1 review
Bang Your Head
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
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.
Good Points
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.

While I had a different concept of zines in my head-- Malu's work seemed more like scrap booking to me-- the author is well know for her own zines. I can't say that I have ever seen a character like Malu in a middle grade novel, with her love of punk culture. I found myself identifying more with her mother (Go wash that gunk off your eyes, young lady, and put on a clean shirt!), but young readers will appreciate her attempts at remaining a free spirit.

Many of my students have requested displays of Hispanic literature for Octobers Hispanic Heritage Month, and this will be a good title to include along with Lopez' Confetti Girl, Rose's Look both ways in the Barrio Blanco , Cervantes' First and Last, Cartaya's The epic fail of Arturo Zamora, and the work of Gary Soto.
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