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…
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Abortion, Drugs, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Strong language, Underage drinking, Drunk driving, Police violence
Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 10-12. Mendez’s gut-wrenching YA debut follows three narrators—Juan, JD, and Fabi—who are struggling to get by in El Paso, Texas. They each have a goal: Juan’s best shot at college is a basketball scholarship, JD dreams of becoming a filmmaker, and Fabi, Juan’s mother, just wants to make ends meet despite an unexpected pregnancy. But, as they know too well, the world is unforgiving, and troubles like sprained ankles, broken families, and lost jobs are heaped upon them. They begin to doubt if any of their hopes and dreams will ever come true, or if the lives of three brown people matter to anyone besides themselves. Mendez minces no words as he presents issues that are all too real for many Latin American communities. Although the characters are sometimes frustrating, 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.
Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2019)
Born on the poor side of El Paso, Juan and JD fight for their dreams, knowing the odds are stacked against them. Mendez (Twitching Heart, 2012) tells the touching story of two teenage buddies, their troubled families, and the injustices they endure as a result of being poor and brown. Juan wants to play college basketball. JD wants to be a filmmaker. But following a single bad decision at a party in a wealthy neighborhood, their dreams begin to fall like dominoes. In a setting of police profiling and violent streets, it becomes obvious that the pain in this community is intergenerational. The boys must cope with parental secrets—Juan’s mother never told him who his father is, and JD’s father makes him an accomplice in a dishonest affair. As they seek answers, readers see that the future is a tidal wave pushing them to the brink even as they act with courage and good intentions. Studying, working hard on the court, impressing coaches and teachers, the teens come to understand that the world has labeled them failures no matter how hard they try. 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. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
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.
Her website is mattmendez.com
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