The following review will contain spoilers for BARELY MISSING EVERYTHING by Matt Mendez. Continue reading at your own discretion.

It’s been a year since JD and Danny lost their best friend to police gunfire and neither has really found a way to move on. JD is now moving bombs for the Air Force and Danny is on the verge of flunking his college classes. Neither had ever envisioned these lives for themselves, but they are each trying to live a life that honors Juan, one that he will never get to live himself. But with a family emergency and imminent deployment on the horizon, the two come back together to confront their shared grief and figure out how to live a life they love because of Juan and not for him.

At a point in their lives where they are just starting to come into their own, JD and Danny's progress is stunted by this grief that has overtaken them - and that they haven’t fully come to terms with. Each has their own knee-jerk reaction to Juan’s death, leading them down a path they didn’t see for themselves prior, and it affects their ability to process their grief. Anyone who has suffered the loss of someone close to them will be able to relate to the feeling of being adrift that we see on full display in JD and Danny.

Mendez expertly crafts a story that epitomizes the idea that the things we’re passionate about can help to heal us in the face of great tragedy. At select points, we see JD’s POV through the lens of a film script, highlighting his love of and passion for film making. As Danny digs deeper into a school project that will save him from failing, he rediscovers his love and passion for creating art as well as the power it has to transform tragedy into something beautiful. To round out the story, there are also flashbacks that seem unrelated at first, but their relevance is slowly revealed as we go on and it creates a magical full circle moment for one of the boys.

A powerful story about navigating grief, the healing power of our passions, and figuring out what comes after loss, THE BROKE HEARTS is the follow up to BARELY MISSING EVERYTHING by Matt Mendez that I didn’t know I needed. They are both available now and you can pick up copies for yourself here and here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."