Review of Falling Short

Falling Short Falling Short
by Ernesto Cisneros
Intermediate, Middle School    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    304 pp.    g
3/22    978-0-06-288172-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-288174-8    $10.99

The first day of sixth grade at Mendez Middle School is coming up, and Isaac Castillo’s Amá expects him to become “más responsable”: “no more forgetting my lunch, no more missing homework, no more detentions, no more bad grades. And most importantly, no more tears for Amá—at least not because of me.” Isaac’s parents are getting a divorce, and he hopes that his good behavior can keep the family together. Isaac’s best friend, Marco Honeyman (“half-Jewish, half-Mexican”), lives next door, and his parents are divorcing, too. Unlike Isaac, he’s a top student: “all geek awards, nothing my dad can brag about.” Maybe if Marco plays a sport, he can make his father proud. Alternating first-person narrations effectively offer Isaac’s and Marco’s perspectives on their own experiences and on each other’s. Isaac teaches Marco to play basketball, and Marco—who’s truly bad at offense but is a scrappy defensive player—makes the team; the latter part of the novel features exciting basketball action. By the end, Isaac has indeed become more responsible, and his schoolwork is better. He has learned how much basketball is like life and school: “It pretty much comes down to the hustle we put in.” Though their families don’t come back together the way that they’d hoped, the boys do indeed make their loved ones proud. A well-told story of family, friends, basketball, and life.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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