The Mixtape to the Real Me

The Mixtape Chronicles

Young Adult - Coming of Age
208 Pages
Reviewed on 04/10/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Set in the year 1995, The Mixtape to the Real Me: The Mixtape Chronicles is a young adult coming-of-age story by Jake Martinez. Justin Ortega and Dominic Mendoza are two teenagers in love studying at Garza High in South Texas. However, the place and time they live in force them to keep their relationship a secret from their social circle. But the arrival of a new student in class who unabashedly introduces himself as a bisexual young man instills a sense of hope in Justin and Dominic that maybe there is a chance that people will accept them for who they are. Meanwhile, Dominic's estranged father sends him a letter wishing to reconnect. With the town of McAllen full of bigots, will Justin and Dominic ever be able to love each other without the fear of being harassed?

The Mixtape to the Real Me is a riveting drama that sheds light on the plight of young gay men who struggle to come out in front of their friends and family due to societal dogma and fear of being persecuted. Jake Martinez explores the issue of homophobia in the deep South by following two high schoolers who only wish for the chance to be free to be who they are. The characters are relatable, and as a reader, you will find yourself sympathizing with their predicament. The book ends on an optimistic note and sends a powerful message about empathy and acceptance. A wholesome coming-of-age tale about embracing love in all its forms, The Mixtape to the Real Me is a must-read for today's generation of young adults.

Ana-Maria Leasa

The Mixtape to the Real Me by Jake Martinez tells the story of Justin and Dominic. A story that shows how mean and ugly the souls of some people can be and the power of family love and close friends for those who are labeled unfit in society, like the main characters. In South Texas, Garza High is not an open-minded and welcoming place for Justin and Dominic’s relationship. They struggle between fitting into that environment and their true desire to be able to act like any other normal couple without worrying about what anyone thinks. But their task is harder than they thought, even if new faces like Roger Gates appear and offer a new view and new possibilities for the world. Will they be able to find their happiness?

One of the aspects that I liked about The Mixtape to the Real Me is the diversity of themes approached by Jake Martinez throughout the story. The themes of love, bullying, domestic violence, homosexuality, and acceptance are beautifully presented without being dressed up in sweet words and useless adjectives. I could see how wrong it was for Reverend Montrose to use religion to marginalize Justin and Dominic, and that God would not accept their kind. And I could see how family abuse could scare an innocent soul that hasn’t done anything wrong. I also liked how the author used two perspectives, Dominic and Justin, to tell the story. It provided a better connection and understanding of the characters and their feelings.

Sarah Stuart

In The Mixtape to the Real Me: The Mixtape Chronicles, Jake Martinez quickly establishes Justin and Dominic as wannabe life partners. Both have the first-person voice, and they give the reader their backstories cleverly set in the present time as students at Garza High School. Justin, shown at home when his sister announces her rushed pre-birth wedding plans, is happy for her, but it reveals their father disapproves of Janice as much as he does of his gay son. Dominic has violence in his past. When a new student, Roger, is introduced to the class, he makes his sexual orientation clear – and so the seeds of doubt and fear are planted. To flourish or to strangle a loving relationship forever?

I loved the way The Mixtape to the Real Me is centered on music. It features in the lives of school students. Garza High concert band – the marching band – is the background to dances. More importantly, Jake Martinez has used the teenagers’ passion for music as a thread, a theme. It drew me in and hooked me to read on, especially Bullet With Butterfly Wings; the familiar lyrics set the stage for the boys’ longing to go out openly together. There was so much in this many-peopled story that brings it to life, but I simply had to know when, or indeed if, Justin and Dominic made it to partners, in public and without shame. The Mixtape to the Real Me is a well-written, captivating book with enormous appeal, and not only to teenagers.