Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Barely Missing Everything

By Matt Mendez

  •            Hardcover: 320 pages
  •         Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
  •         Language: English
  •         ISBN-10: 1534404457
  •         ISBN-13: 978-1534404458

In the tradition of Jason Reynolds and Matt de la Peña, this heartbreaking, no-holds-barred debut novel told from three points of view explores how difficult it is to make it in life when you—your life, brown lives—don’t matter.

Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself—or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­–like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…


"There are moments when a story shakes you...Barely Missing Everything is one of those stories, and Mendez, a gifted storyteller with a distinct voice, is sure to bring a quake to the literary landscape." --Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author of Long Way Down 

"Matt Mendez writes on target about people who are barely surviving in an America all too familiar to those who live on the borderlands. I thank him for making room for them on the pages of American literature. He has done so with respect, honor, and deep love."  --Sandra Cisneros, American Book Award winner and author of The House on Mango Street

"Mendez offers enticing glimpses of Mexican-American life, and he has an uncanny
ability to capture the aimless bluster of young boys posturing at confidence, behaving
rashly to mask feeling insecure...we can almost feel the existential claustrophobia of
adolescence." Mj Franklin, ~ The New York Times, Book Review 

"In this novel with a deep sense of place and realistic dialogue, characters who are vivid and fallible add deep psychological meaning to a heart-wrenching story.  At once accessible and artful, this is an important book about Mexican teens holding onto hope and friendship in the midst of alcoholism, poverty, prejudice, and  despair."  ~ Kirkus, Starred Review

"This searing portrait of two Mexican-American families conveys the experiences of a group that is underrepresented in YA fiction.  Juan, a high school senior living in El Paso, knows that his only hope for a future is basketball...Mendez brings Juan and his world to life with vivid, honest characters and events that shine a light on what it can mean to be Mexican-American and poor in America."  ~ Publishers Weekly

"Mendez minces no words as he presents issues that are all too real for many Latin American communities. . . . Mendez's attention to raw detail in plot and diction is both painful and illuminating. With its shades of social justice, this will appeal to readers of Matt de la Peña and Jason Reynolds." ~ Booklist

Like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in central El Paso, Texas. He is the author of Barely Missing Everything, his YA debut novel, and the short story collection Twitching Heart. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona. You can visit him at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I had the honor of sharing a panel with Matt at the 2019 Tucscon Festival of Books. I heartily endorse Barely Missing Everything! Daniel Acosta (