BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez [in Booklist]

Brown lives get overlooked, trampled, dismissed, and destroyed in Matt Mendez’s searing YA debut, set in his El Paso, Texas hometown. Timothy Andrés Pabon – his voice aptly mimicking a teen who’s not quite fully mature – opens in “Chapter Juan” as should-be high school basketball star Juan; his split-second decision to run from the police after leaving a party lands him in jail overnight, while his resulting twisted ankle sidelines him just when college coaches might be offering scholarships.

Juan’s best friend, wannabe filmmaker JD – voiced by always youthful-sounding Ramón de Ocampo – wants out just as much, especially from his fragmenting family now that his mother’s discovered his father’s cheating. Juan’s single mother Fabi – alternating between remorseful exhaustion and steely tenacity in Cynthia Farrell’s affecting narration – once dreamed of a different future, but finds herself still stuck with a decrepit apartment, dead-end-job, and pregnant again.

When Juan discovers Fabi’s letters from an ex-boyfriend on death row, his assumption that this must be his father sets in motion a tragic chain of events. As inevitable as the ending might feel, the tragedy rings all too loud and clear.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, January 3, 2020

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2019


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