The Broke Hearts | Matt Mendez


Out Now from Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 240 pages

The Broke Hearts by Matt Mendez

Content Warning: Language, death, violence, discussion of police brutality

About the Author: “Matt Mendez is the author of Barely Missing Everything, his debut novel, and the short story collection Twitching Heart. Barely Missing Everything has been called a ‘searing portrait of two Mexican-American families’ by Publishers Weekly and ‘accessible and artful’ in a starred review by Kirkus. The New York Times says Mendez ‘has an uncanny ability to capture the aimless bluster of young boys posturing at confidence.’

Like many of his characters, Matt grew up in El Paso, Texas and continues to love and live in the Southwest, now in Tucson, Arizona. He is a military veteran and earned his MFA from the University of Arizona where he has taught creative writing. Matt is the father of two daughters that he loves fiercely” (Bio from author’s website).

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“I still get scared—I’m scared right now. But your abuelo taught me the most important part of being brave that day. Showing up.”

After the events of Barely Missing Everything, JD and Danny are lost. They are still grieving the loss of their best friend, Juan, who was shot by the police a year ago. JD joined the Air Force to get money to pay for film school one day, but he’s struggling to move on from the past. Danny is going to college, something his dad wants and something Juan never got to do, but he’s failing his classes and struggling to find motivation when all he really wants to do is paint. When both boys are brought back together in El Paso through life-changing news, they are forced to face their grief and make things right with themselves and those surrounding them.

The Broke Hearts is a moving story about two teenagers grappling with grief and trying to find their place in the world. I was a bit unsure going into the novel since my taste usually leans towards fantasy, but I was honestly blown away. The writing had me instantly hooked, and I loved the unique way Mendez told the story. Instead of sticking to a traditional format, he included flashbacks modeled after Lotería cards. Mendez masterfully weaved Spanish into the story with these cards, helping to set the scene in a book that focuses on Mexican-American characters. In select chapters from JD’s point of view, Mendez would switch to a movie script format, which I thought was a genius way of incorporating JD’s movie-making aspirations. In the end, this was a story of character development. JD had to come to terms with watching Juan die, and you could feel his determination at the end to create a better future for himself. Danny used painting to deal with Juan’s death, and he discovered so much about himself and the people around him through painting the Lotería cards. The flashbacks used these cards to reveal his father’s past, which was arguably my favorite part of the book. I loved how it connected Danny and his father, even when they felt disconnected, and I was moved to tears as their stories came full circle in the end. It showed how far both of them had come and alluded to a brighter future ahead. The Broke Hearts is a powerful read that I would recommend to anyone looking for a YA novel that beautifully captures the struggles of grief and learning what comes next.

Pine Reads Review would like to thank Matt Mendez and Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.

Sam Yanis, Pine Reads Review Writer