The Official Description: Justin Ortega might as well be starring in his very own coming-of-age 80s movie. If only he could find his dream boy to pull up in front of his house in a red convertible and sweep him off his feet, already! At seventeen years young, he isn’t quite Mexican enough for his South Texas town; isn’t manly enough for his father; can sometimes be too much of a smart mouth for his mother; and as for the other kids at school—let’s just say he’d be cast as the quiet nerd with a heart of gold…and an ear for music.
The one solace Justin has is his love of 80s hair metal bands, which he listens to on his beloved Sony Walkman. The songs, lyrics, and melody keep him just sane enough to escape the pressures of school and help navigate the hurdles life brings. Especially with the doozy this year is shaping up to be. Not only does he have to try out for a captain position which is rightfully his, but his best friend has found a new girlfriend, leaving Justin to fend for himself in a school where he’s mostly known as simply Coconut.
Enter Dominic Mendoza. Sweet, funny, and a blast from his past, the hunky football player has moved in next door. Justin could never forget how Dominic protected him in the eighth grade, nor the way Dominic made him feel, then…and now.
Except, this isn’t a movie. Confusion, friendship, and love won’t guarantee a happy ending unless Justin can learn to accept himself for who he truly is. Hair bands and all.
Just the facts: Queer YA, homophobia, good friendships, emotions of High School
Justin has a crush on his new neighbour… who is an old defender of his. School is a nightmare. Home is stressful. What could go wrong? – Kinzie Things
My thoughts bit: The Mixtape to My Life by Jake Martinez has some important messages in it. Justin Ortega is 16 at the beginning of the novel. He’s a sweet young man… who already knows that he’s gay but hasn’t told anyone. At home, he worries that his Mexican father will let the binds of machismo influence the way in which he thinks of his son if he comes out. At school, his best friend Benny has guessed but no one else knows. Well, the bullies think that they know he’s gay… they’re convinced enough to call him “fag” and worse at school.
I really felt for Justin while he was at school. The bullying was really well-written…and it’s an authentic-sounding teenage voice… not the kind of bullying that is often written by adults. There was one person who stood up for Justin in the past and that was Dominic. When Dominic turns up again as Justin’s neighbor, there are certainly still feelings there.
The relationship between the two young men is very sweet. It felt a little rushed at times, but maybe that’s the youth of the characters. They’re certainly in a rush to be together once they realize they are on the same page. Maybe it was because they’d both been thinking about each other since the fateful time that Dominic defended him.
The relationship between Justin and his father is strained. His father isn’t an overly emotional man and Justin doesn’t want to tell his father that he’s gay. That sets up a wall between them that’s only exacerbated by the fact that Justin’s father is a football coach. he wants his son to be tough, play sports and date girls. And really, if Justin could possibly change, it seems as though he would. I think that’s probably a common feeling for a lot of young people when they are struggling with their sexuality.
All in all, this is a nice book. The plot isn’t overly convoluted, but the characters are well-developed and the couplings are sweet and believable.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) homophobia, bullying (verbal and physical), child physical abuse in the home, homophobia in family, physical altercations, teenagers run away
I received an ARC of The Mixtape of My Life by Jake Martinez from Deep Hearts YA via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.