Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Tags: YA, contemporary, Asperger's, law


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.

Similar Authors
Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

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.


  1. Marcello is one of the best characters I've ever had the pleasure to meet. I love him. I feel like he's a real person--I could not get over how beautiful and real this book was when I read it. Love it!

  2. I just read this one recently, and I just wanted to say "yea!" There's no reason everyone shouldn't read this book. For all the reasons you said. Not a perfect book, but the characters are great and packs a big punch. It's not that long, and I really don't think you'll be sorry if you read it.


  3. Sounds like a great book to read. I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night in September, and I really liked it. I must red this book.
    Happy Readings

  4. Sounds awesome! Adding it to my to-read shelf now. Thanks Steph. :)

  5. I'm glad you had the chance to read this novel. I loved this book so much and the storyline was good. I really didn't know where the story was going, but I was rooting for Marcelo the whole time. I love books that can make me care about all the characters, even the minor ones. Your review is spot on.

  6. i've heard so many amazing things about this book that it would be rude not to read it. Especially after this amazing review.

  7. YES! Marcelo!! I LOVED this book and I'm thrilled you have reviewed it - hopefully it will get even more positive attention that way!!

  8. This looks great! *adds to TBR list* I'm definately reading this. Thanks for informing me of this book's existence, and nice review :)

  9. Thanks for bringing back all the warm feelings I have for this book. Marcello is an amazing character and this is a must read.

  10. I haven't read this one yet, but I love love love love love the cover.

  11. Wow. I'd seen this book around on blogs and websites before but I never really know what it was about. Added to Cart!

  12. I just posted a review of this book this morning! I definitely agree with your assessment of how well done the relationship-building was between Marcelo and his father.

  13. I just posted a review of this book this morning! I definitely agree with your assessment of how well done the relationship-building was between Marcelo and his father.

  14. Thanks for the review, I hadn't heard of this one - sounds good and I'm adding to my TBR list


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