Thursday, January 6, 2011
Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Scientists don’t know exactly what 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval has, but they believe it’s a form of Asperger’s Syndrome in which Marcelo can “hear” music that no one else can. For his part, Marcelo is perfectly content to spend the summer before his senior year of high school working as a stablehand at his alternative school, but his father has other plans. Arturo believes there’s nothing wrong with Marcelo, and wants him to work at his big-time law firm for the summer.
In the law firm’s mailroom, Marcelo befriends the beautiful and striking Jasmine, and struggles to work out his relationship with Wendell, his father’s partner’s sleazy law student son. At first Marcelo just wants to succeed at his job so that he can go back to Paterson for his senior year. But the discovery of the discarded picture of a disfigured girl leads Marcelo along a journey to discover his place in the world, the decisions in his hands, and what he can do to help.
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is an unassuming winner that’s deserving of all the praise it’s received. Sensitive, touching, and hopeful, this remarkable book will make you rethink your position in life, and the influences you can have on it.
Marcelo is an incredibly genuine protagonist. Reading his narration feels in a way like a novelization of the character of Forrest Gump: that charming, yet heartbreaking, guilelessness, the literal way with which he looks at the world, the difficult lessons he can only learn through experience. The completeness with which Francisco Stork seems to know his protagonist is astonishing, and convincingly touching as a result.
In a sense, MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is a celebration of characters, both good and bad. A law firm is an interesting but quite genius place to set such a story, as it allows Marcelo—and readers—to come in contact with people who lie and manipulate, and yet have people they love, and dreams they aspire to. Marcelo’s changing relationship with his father is particularly well done, as it shows us the all-too-real complexities of loving people with good and bad parts.
Sometimes the plot feels slow (it took a few chapters before I got into the story), and sometimes the scenes are disjointed, but overall MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is an amazing accomplishment. I highly recommend that everyone read this book: it might encourage you to approach the world around you differently, with a more open mind and heart.
Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - I think it's amazing. The simple flattening of the image makes it so striking, like it's part of this world, yet not quite...kind of like Marcelo.
Scholastic / March 9, 2009 / Hardcover / 320pp. / $17.99
Out in paperback in February 2011!
Copy received in trade.