Friday, December 31, 2010

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Book Jacket

Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear--part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify.  But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo's differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the join "the real world."

There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.  He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire.  But it's a picture he finds in a file--a picture of a girl with half a face--that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of teh Dog in the Night-Time in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.


I don't know if this is simply the psychology minor in me talking, but Marcelo in the Real World was absolutely fascinating!  Its narrator, an autistic seventeen-year-old boy, describes his view of the world in such a way that causes intense empathy for him, and by extension, all autistic persons.  When other people call Marcelo stupid or retarded, you want to slap them in the face, because you know he's not;  you've been in his head and you see all the thoughts and cognitive steps he takes.  If anything, I've come away from this novel thinking that autism is really a heightened intelligence--so much going on in their brains that they can't express what they feel as quickly as "normal" people can. 

Aside from all the interesting themes about mental disorders and are they really disorders?, the running idea of suffering, and what we as mere individuals, can do to fight it or endure it was just wonderful.  Very realistic, but very encouraging. 

"The right note sounds right, and the wrong note sounds wrong." 
"That's what faith is, isn't it?  Following the music when we don't hear it."

Marcelo in the Real World is a beautiful story.  There is some intense language, although it used more thoughtfully than violently.  That's hard to explain, but for mature readers, this book is definitely a must-read!

Five out of five mailrooms.

Release Date:  March 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL STO

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