August 29, 2017 • Cee • Reviews

[note note_color=”#f03b5f” text_color=”#ffffff”]The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez • August 22, 2017 • Viking Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
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On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria 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 Malu 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, Malu 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.[/note]


[note note_color=”#BFD1D1″ text_color=”#ffffff”]I received this book for free from Penguin for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.[/note]

First sentence: “Dad says punk rock only comes in one volume: loud.”

The First Rule of Punk hits every note with a perfectly pitched scream. Malu—don’t call her Maria Luisa—is into two things: punk music + zines. When her mother moves them to Florida, she finds herself doing things she never thought she would back home: making friends in her new home and getting in touch with her Mexican heritage.

It’s certainly not any book your Abuela has encountered.


  • Appreciate all types of music.

Malú has punk engrained in her soul. She grew up listening to it because her dad runs a record store. She doesn’t listen to anything that’s not punk—not even her mother’s Mexican music (at least not willingly).

However, when a classmate’s mother introduces Malú to music that merges punk with Mexican, this girl falls hard. I loved that when she gave it a chance, she’s opened to an entirely new world. It’s completely outside the box of what she expects, and that’s what this book does a beautiful job of showing its readers.

  • When in doubt, make a zine.

Throughout The First Rule of Punk, there are black and white illustrations and collages called zines that Malú makes for herself like the story behind her name, her love for music, or why she doesn’t fit the term “Señorita.” Zines are an outlet for Malú to express herself when she feels like nobody can understand.

I loved seeing these zines in the book. I’ve been seeing a resurgence of it in books geared towards young and teen readers, and I’m extremely happy about it because it’s such a common thing for all types of people have made. It gets your creative juices going.

  • Get in touch with your culture. 

All Malú’s mother wants is for her daughter to be a proper Señorita, but that is not Malú. She’d rather listen to her punk music and wear her band t-shirts and ratty jeans. She’s not very in touch with her Mexican heritage like the kids at her new school, and that becomes a slight problem. To Malú, there’s nothing punk about her Mexican heritage, right? Totally wrong!

I loved seeing how Malú learns that yeah! there is something very punk rock about her Mexican heritage. She’s just gotta find out that single thing that merges what she loves with Mexican culture, and she does. And it’s incredible to see how her eyes become open at the possibilities.

  • Don’t be afraid to make friends.

The best kinds of friends to make are the unlikely ones. Being the new kid is always difficult. It’s hard to find people who won’t find you weird for wearing ratty jeans and a band t-shirt. But it’s best to be yourself even if it’s a weirdo.

For Malú, she gets on the bad side of popular Selena, so being friends with her is out of the question. Finding friends is a bit difficult when she doesn’t have anything in common with the other kids. Or maybe she does? Malú creates a band with kids who are vastly different than she is—Joe, the cafe owner’s son who dyed his hair on the first day of school; Benny, a band kid who actually knows how to play music; and Ellie, the white activist. When they are together, they can accomplish anything.

Should you read The First Rule of Punk? YES!!! The First Rule of Punk is delightful! Punk music + zines + Mexican culture + friendships? Say yes to this beautiful book. It’s all about the love of music, embracing being a punk and Mexican, and finding friends who make it all worth the trouble of school.


Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.

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Are you excited about reading The First Rule of Punk? Please go and read it! You won’t regret it!


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