Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marcello in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo, age 17, is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Highly intelligent, he hears inner music; speaks of both himself and people he addresses in third person; sometimes struggles with appropriate responses; is intensely interested in the Bible and prayer, which he calls "remembering"; and has yet to feel any sexual desire. He feels at home and well-educated at his special high school where he has a summer job as stable man, taking care of and training ponies to be ridden by kids with all kinds of disabilities. The problem arises when Marcelo's father issues an ultimatum. Marcelo, he says, isn't experiencing enough of the real world. He can either go ahead with his summer job at the stable and switch to public high school for his senior year, or he can stay at his school IF he comes to work in the mail room at his father's law firm for the summer. Deciding that his bottom line is not to switch schools, Marcelo chooses the law firm, where he meets the conniving, golden-boy son of his father's partner and the unique young woman who supervises him in the mailroom, discovers that the firm is defending the manufacturer of defective car windshields that have maimed scores of people, and finds out certain unpleasant facts about his father -- learning more about the real world than his father may have wished.

But this book is far from jaded or pessimistic. There are two sides to every story, and weaknesses and strengths in everyone, whether they're considered disabled, normal or gifted. Marcelo's voice is unique but believable, kind but dispassionate, childlike but not naive. The development of his relationship with Jasmine, the girl in the mailroom, is surprising, a linking up of the things they have in common, with no giddiness or rushing into displays of affection. All of the secondary characters are more than types, more than what people would assume about them, just as Marcelo is.

Marcelo in the Real World won the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award in the YA category, and the award is richly deserved. This is simply a very lovely novel.


Anna said...

I've been meaning to read this one for a while. It sounds like a great read!

Tabitha said...

Okay, yet more proof that you and I are always on the same wavelength. I just finished this book not long ago and really enjoyed it. And I'll be reviewing it soon (imagine that). :)

Great review!!

Marcia said...

Anna -- It is. I loved it.

Tabitha -- LOL. I'm waiting for the day we review the same book on the same day.

Christina Farley said...

Interesting. Thanks for the review. I choose most of my books from reviews!

amba said...

"is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Highly intelligent, he hears inner music; speaks of both himself and people he addresses in third person; sometimes struggles with appropriate responses;"
The scary thing is it sounds like my son who has similar problems but is only 6years old, loves horses and hears inner music. I will be reading this one! Thanks!

Andrea said...

I'm glad you reviewed this--I've been wanting to read it. You've re-piqued my interest!

Marcia said...

Christina -- I do too. There are so many books; reviews usually determine which ones I actually pick up.

Amba -- I think you'll love Marcelo. This only underscores how well the author did his research, doesn't it?

Andrea -- It's definitely a great read!

Nora MacFarlane said...

Sounds interesting. I'll put this one on my TBR list.

Anne Spollen said...

Great. I really was looking for a YA where the protagonist doesn't transform at any point into a vampire.

This is going on top of my TBR pile. Thanks for the great review!

Marcia said...

Nora -- I thought it was really good. Not just one that you read, return to the library and don't think much about. It stays with you.

Anne -- LOL. No vampires here.

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