Barely Missing Everything


Valedictorian of his high school class?  No.   Star of the basketball team?  Not any more.  Headed to death row?  Maybe.

Juan, J.D. and Dave have been laughing at each other for years.  Best friends forever, now they're trying to navigate their last year of high school wondering what their futures will look like.    Wondering if owning a dream of their own is even part of the equation.

This is Juan who sprains his ankle trying to get away, who gets roughed up by the cops and ends up with a court date his mother can't afford.  This is Juan who dreams of playing basketball in college so he can create some kind of future for himself.  This is Juan who just found out his father might be a guy on death row whose date of execution is fast approaching.  Now Juan is wondering if he is destined to end end up on death row himself or could the world possibly hold something better for him?   What does his future hold?  How can he get there?

J.D. is about to crash his car, about to find the condoms in the back of his dad's truck, about to discover his dad's sidepiece and be the reason his mother throws his father out of the house.  This is J.D. who dreams of becoming a filmmaker.  He doesn't have anybody to show him how to do it but he's smart enough to know he wants to make movies and he wants to see his own story on film.  Maybe then it might make some sense.

Families have tragedies that can stop them in their tracks.  It becomes an every man for himself world where the doors stay closed along the hallway and the conversations just stop.  The mothers stop showing up.  The fathers end up in jail.      The family photos on the walls dribble down to nothingness as though the show is over.

There are little moments and choices sparking the shifts in these guys' lives every day and they lead to big questions.  When did the parents stop seeing their kids?  Where is God?  How can these young Latinos get back on the track to their best destiny?  How can they kick away the setbacks, the hardships, the bad breaks of this pathway that is taking them from one choice laced with bad luck and bad judgment to another as they move forward in the direction of they don't even know what?

Talk about getting down to the nitty gritty.

When Matt Mendez wrote this book he reached deeply into a world that needs a spotlight.  He invited us into some really dark and possibly unfamiliar corners.

Life doesn't go in a straight line for these guys and it didn't go in a straight line for their parents either.  Here are the generations laid bare with their own challenges, their own pain, their own mistakes. You don't just read about these lives and these choices, you walk the mile in their shoes hoping that something is going to finally break in their favor.  You want them to reach to the good stuff inside themselves and to stop giving away bits and pieces of themselves every day.

So, what will the pathways look like for these guys?  How do they make it?  Can J.D. ever become a filmmaker?  He has the eye for it.  Will Juan get to the prison in time to meet Armand?

Or will they simply go on barely missing everything?

Tissue box suggested.

320 pages           978-1534404458         Ages 14 and up

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,


“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 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…--from the publisher

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