Matt de la Peña: Rock Star Author
Rock Star Status
Think back to your high school days and try to remember the excitement you felt when your English teacher told you an author was coming to visit your school and that your local library set it up. Did you shriek in delight? Jump up and down in excitement? Chances are, you probably just shrugged and figured you would find a way to get through the boring class. I’m sure you made a mental note to bring your doodle pad to class to help pass the time because it wasn’t as though Mick Jagger was coming to visit.
I’m also positive that was the same feeling that many of the 9th graders at Phoenix Academy in East Palo Alto had and was shared by the boys residing at Camp Glenwood and the Youth Services Center detention hall. “Matt de la Peña? Who is he? What? The library is coming too? Boring.” Teens are supposed to be bored by pretty much everything so it’s not surprising if they don’t go crazy at the first mention of an author visit.
Back to Rock Star Status
However, things changed when Matt de la Peña walked through their doors. I could list all of his credentials here: his awards, published work, entire professional biography, but that didn’t matter to these teens. What matters to them is that he gets it. He understands the struggle of growing up in challenging times, being a teen who doesn’t have the same advantages as others, and has questions about identity. His books have dealt with these same issues and that is how he kept the teens at all of the sites he visited enthralled with everything he had to say. Some of the thank you cards I received from the high school students said as much. One student said she could relate to the main character which she felt was an important aspect to reading. Agreed! At the end of each visit, the teens lined up to meet him and get their books signed.
We, the San Mateo County Library, have worked hard to bring authors to our libraries and One Book One Community events. I have to say, however, that the ones I enjoy the most are the visits authors make to the school and youth centers.
Matt de la Peña Young Adult Book Bibliography
Ball Don't Lie - A star basketball player faces some tough choices in life. Book List praised the book: "Teens will be strongly affected by the unforgettable, distinctly male voice; the thrilling, unusually detailed basketball action; and the questions about race, love, self-worth, and what it means to build a life without advantages."
Mexican Whiteboy - Biracial teen, Danny, learns a lot about himself during a summer visit with relatives in San Diego. A great choice for reluctant readers.
We Were Here - Three troubled teens travel down the coast of California. A Book List review said: "[This]contemporary survival adventure will keep readers hooked, as will the tension that builds from the story's secrets."
I Will Save You - A teen spends a summer working at a beach camp and makes surprising discoveries about himself and those around him.
Rebecca A. has been called author stalker by many, but prefers the term "author aficionado" instead.