Written by: Matt Mendez
Cover Art by: Dana Ledl
For ages: Young Adults
Topics Covered: Growing Up, Latinx Identities, Racism, Sports, Alcohol & Marijuana Use, Family, Incarceration, Filmmaking, Friendship, Police Brutality, Pregnancy.
Summary: This book was one of those stories that everything I anticipated to happen did not happen, I was constantly surprised at the deft storytelling of Mendez’s plot line. Told from three viewpoints, the reader gets the full scope of what life is like for these characters. Barely Missing Everything is a text that normalizes the experiences of working Latinx families barely making it, and the dreams that accompany hardly making ends meet.
Juan and his best friend JD are almost out of high school, and both love basketball. (I don’t particularly even like sports, but this book is incredible!) Fabiola is Juan’s mom, and she’s just holding on while trying to balance raising Juan, their awful landlady, a surprise pregnancy, and Juan getting arrested after a party he attended got broken up by police. So many of these moments in the book made me cringe and think “No! Why that decision?!” but the plot is so believable the reader can imagine knowing these characters and caring about them, wanting what’s best for them in the long run, which led to those protective thoughts.
Each character we come across has hopes and dreams, desperately wishing to escape their situation for a better one. This is a book that normalizes the experiences of marginalized populations, and allows for diverse experiences to be broadcast to a wide audience. Barely Missing Everything is emotional, raw, and impossible to put down. I mean Jason Reynolds said the book is “sure to bring a quake to the literary landscape” so really what else can we say to convince you to read it?
Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send us this book, but all opinions are our own along with the decision to review the book!
About the Author & Cover Artist:
Matt Mendez has worked on airplanes all of his adult life and is the author of the YA novel Barely Missing Everything and the short story collection Twitching Heart. He earned his MFA from the University of Arizona where he also taught creative writing. His work has appeared in Pank, The Literary Review, Huizache, and other places. Matt is from El Paso, Texas but now lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona. You can visit him at mattmendez.com or follow him on Twitter @mgmendez.
Dana Ledl is the cover artist for Barely Missing Everything! She lives in Prague, and is a freelance graphic designer.