“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
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 Quentin 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 are 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…
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Matt Mendez’s YA debut is a heart-wrenching, perceptive story about friendship and growing up Hispanic in El Paso, Texas. Juan is the best basketball player on the worst team in his district—and with the school’s losing record, Juan’s chances of escaping poverty with a sports scholarship are slim. When Juan hears from a man who may or may not be his father, the already-shaky balance of his existence is thrown into chaos, as is the life of his best friend, JD. Mendez’s characters feel tremendously real; their high hopes and crushing disappointments burrowed into our heart. We were hooked on this book from the first chapter to the last page.
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; when he sprains his ankle running from the police at a party, he worries that he's lost everything, particularly after spending the night in prison. But his coach offers him one last shot: rehab the ankle, pass a big algebra test, and he'll invite a college scout to see Juan play. Juan's best friend, JD, has his own problems: he discovers that his father is cheating, and when his mom throws his dad out, JD's family implodes. And Juan's mother, Fabi, the story's third narrator, learns that she's pregnant and can't decide what to do. Juan doesn't know who his father is, but when Fabi starts getting letters from an ex-boyfriend on death row, Juan becomes convinced that the writer is his dad. He and JD hatch a plan to visit, but past choices catch up with them, changing everything. 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. Ages 14 up.