Parents' Guide to

Falling Short

By Stephanie Morgan, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Sweet, vulnerable friendship of two Latino sixth-grade boys.

Falling Short Cover

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This is a tender tale about two steadfast friends who will do anything to help each other reach their goals and make their parents proud. Falling Short sets itself apart with a pair of extremely likable protagonists who aren't afraid to be themselves, try hard, and - most notably -- talk to each other about their feelings. Middle grade readers need more characters like Marco and Isaac period, but especially from cultures that are under-represented in the books they read. Most striking is the boys' uncommon willingness to be vulnerable. These boys not only regularly stick up for each another among their peers, they cry in front of each other, hug, and share emotions that many boys their age have trouble naming, including shame, fear, and regret. They also display true empathy for each other and their parents. So much so, that the selfless attitudes and actions edge toward unrealistic. In truth, this is a book that readers a little younger than Marco and Issac will enjoy the most, as the two make a perfectly aspirational, if not completely believable, duo.

While the boys may be noticeably missing any pre-teen attitudes, their identity struggles are nonetheless spot on. Issac wrestles with staying organized and completing his work in school, leading to worries that his parents are divorcing because he's not the son they always wanted and deserve. Marco, a kid who's been in advanced placement classes his whole life, panics and feels like an imposter the first time he doesn't understand a math lesson right away. He also experiences deep feelings of abandonment from his father, as well as occasional panic attacks, which Isaac not only knows about, but also knows how to help Marco manage. Both boys have to come to terms with utterly relatable feelings of middle school inadequacy, and they lean on each other while finding their way.

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