Falling Short

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Mar. 2022. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062881724.
Gr 4-7–Marco Honeyman and Isaac Castillo are next-door neighbors and best friends, despite their apparent differences: Jewish-Mexican Marco is small and book-smart, while Isaac, who is also Latinx, is a gifted and hard-working basketball player who struggles to manage his homework. Part of Marco and Isaac’s bond is their desire for approval from their divorced parents. Isaac hopes his mom won’t give up on him the way she gave up on his dad because of his drinking, and Marco wishes his dad would come back and be proud of him. When they enter middle school, Marco and Isaac stand by each other, despite different classes and friend groups. When Marco decides to try out for the baseketball team to impress his father (despite never playing before), Isaac coaches him. The boys’ bond of friendship is the core of the story; they have honest conversations, admire each other’s good qualities, and support each other through anxiety attacks and family problems. After a tough tournament game, Isaac concludes, “Life is like a game of pretty much comes down to the hustle we put in.”
VERDICT At every turn, Isaac and Marco support each other in this affirming story of basketball, middle school, friendship, and family, and choosing kindness and determination over easy cowardice or cruelty. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.

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