Last night I finished reading Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. I mostly “read” the book on CD in the car during my drive to and from work. However, yesterday when I got home I was almost done. I was fortunate enough to have a copy of the book and I couldn’t wait until this morning to finish. I really needed to know what happened, and I was not disappointed.
Marcelo in the Real World tells the story of a most unlikely hero, Marcelo Sandoval, a seventeen-year-old, almost high school senior who wants nothing more than to simply go on living his life. In order to fulfill this simple request Marcelo makes a deal with his father: Marcelo will join the “real world” for the summer and then be allowed to chose where he wants to spend his senior year, at the private school he has been attending forever or at the local public school.
Marcelo is nervous about his upcoming summer in the real world. He has trouble understanding simple facial expressions, he loves to talk about religion, and can’t make sense of idioms. These are the effects of Marcelo’s diagnosis, Aspergers.
This novel is one of the best examples of “walking a mile in someone else shoes” that I have yet to come across. While reading, or listening in my case, I truly felt the frustrations that Marcelo was expressing. I wanted to yell and shake his father for treating Marcelo with such disdain. Yet, being only a reader I could not interact with the characters, just like Marcelo often felt he was at a lack of words to adequately express himself.
I highly recommend this book to all, especially if you liked Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a book that I have not read but have heard compared to Marcelo in the Real World.
I could gush forever about my love of this book, instead I will leave it to the pros. Below is part of Robert Lipsyte’s review from the New York Times. He does a much better job (and he is much more eloquent than I will ever be) of convincing you to read this book, which you should do.
…Marcelo Sandoval is the bravest, most original hero I’ve met in years…The reader’s conflict—rooting for Marcelo to succeed yet unsure what success actually means for him—energizes Marcelo in the Real World, a brisk, brilliant, unsentimental novel…Marcelo is smart, thoughtful, decent, good-looking without knowing it. A great kid, just a little different. Must he be challenged to be fulfilled, emotionally endangered to match someone’s idea of fitting in? The psychological and moral concerns of the novel are so marbled into the story that they never overwhelm it, making Marcelo in the Real World not only an important new young adult novel but a pleasure to read.
If all of the above is not enough to convince you to read this book, then the cover should … isn’t it cool?