Barely Missing Everything

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.

“There are moments when a story shakes you.  When it fills you with a strange combination of razor blade and feather—a concoction that simultaneously tickles and slices inside.  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

“Matt Mendez writes on target about people who are barely surviving in an America all too familiar to those who live on the borderlands. I thank him for making room for them on the pages of American literature. He has done so with respect, honor, and deep love.”
~Sandra Cisneros, American Book Award winner and author of The House on Mango Street



"Mendez offers enticing glimpses of Mexican-American life, and he has an uncanny ability to capture the aimless bluster of young boys posturing at confidence, behaving rashly to mask feeling insecure...we can almost feel the existential claustrophobia of adolescence." Mj Franklin, The New York Times, Book Review

“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.”
~ Kirkus, Starred Review

Matt Mendez’s YA debut is a heart-wrenching, perceptive story about friendship and growing up Hispanic in El Paso, Texas.  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.  

~Apple Books

“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…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.”
~ Publishers Weekly

Mendez minces no words as he presents issues that are all too real for many Latin American communities. . . . 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.

~ Booklist

In this gut-wrenching novel...told in three alternating voices, characters are authentically realized through candid dialogue...This novel would be a good fit for highly diversified libraries and in particular those libraries with a large Latina/o population. Recommended. 

~ Tena Natale Litherland, School Library Connection


Twitching Heart

In a remarkable debut, Matt Mendez writes beautifully crafted stories, creating characters with clarity and worlds that are full, rich, and powerful.

This  is exactly how a winning debut should read—fluid and raw, redemptive and inevitable.  Underneath the humor runs a gifted  storyteller’s  nuanced take on the paradox of the outsider.  A triumphant first swing from one of the new stars in the next generation of Chicano  lit.

~ Manuel Muñoz, author of What You See in the Dark

Mendez’s  stories emerge out of the gritty and working-class barrios of El  Paso.  At times gesturing towards the magical realism south of the border, his characters struggle to carve out a piece of the “American Dream,” but the difficulties they endure often leave them speechless.  This is where Mendez’s strength as a writer is most visible.  While his characters struggle to find the right words, he does not.  His prose is restrained, his metaphors apt, and his details are damn near perfect.  The desert might be unforgiving, but Mendez is able to impart a degree of grace into his stories without resorting to sentimentality.  One of the sharpest young writers in the Southwest, he  gives voice to a region that has remained on the periphery of American literature for far too long.  His will be a career to watch closely.

~ D. Seth Horton, Series Editor, New Stories from the Southwest and Series Co-Editor, Best of the West: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri

El Paso is at the center of the new map of the West.  Matt Mendez writes from, and about, Chuco’s heart.

~ Dagoberto Gilb, author of Before the End, After the Beginning



“Méndez offers a cast of well-drawn characters and lots of darkness.  As a young author, the writer doesn’t pretend to forge an illuminating ethos for his people.  Instead the stories move characters through the night, show people going through the motions thinking through a fog, gente who, when they make decisions, get it all wrong.” 

~ Em Sedano, La Bloga

“Matt  Méndez’s Twitching Heart  (Floricanto Press) is an evocative collection of stories set in El  Paso that challenges the reader to explore the dynamics of relationships, gender roles, politics and faith.  The prose is simple but true, and the stories are suspenseful and often without easy conclusions, which encourage the reader to ponder the layers of meaning in Méndez’s prose.” 

~ Sergio Troncoso, The El Paso Times

“There is much to like and admire in Méndez’s first collection of stories.  His fully developed characters and settings bring the reader deep into their world and keep readers wanting more. One can only imagine what will come next.” 

~ Nick Depascal, Tucson Weekly

“Twitching  Heart is a collection interested in revealing the human condition, with all its diamonds and blemishes.  As David Foster Wallace once said, “Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved.”  Ultimately, these stories promise the possibility of love and rebirth even in tragedy, despair, and  heartache.”

~ Kindall Gray, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts