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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Hooke

Review of 'Marcelo in the Real World'

Marcelo in the Real World

By Francisco X. Stork, 2009, Scholastic Corporation

Realistic YA fiction

Rating: 👻👻👻👻 (4 out of 4 boos)

“Seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear, part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify. Marcelo is tagged with a ‘developmental disorder’ because of his pervasive interest in God and all things religious and because he does not relate to others as expected. He's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, a beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. Marcelo 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.”

What’s the main character like?

It is difficult not to fall in love with the character of Marcelo. Like the rest of us, he’s trying to make sense of what’s right and wrong in the world, as well as what’s right and wrong for him personally. In his quest to do what’s right no matter the cost, he makes me aspire to have a similar mindset. Plus, he’s quirky and loves animals. What's not to like?

How scary is it?

Okay, fine, I completely cheated with this book. Not only is it not written by an author whose last name starts with X, Marcelo in the Real World is not paranormal, horror, nor even a thriller or mystery. But as X was next in my alphabetical list, I had to pick something. But truthfully, this book is not scary at all. It is beautiful and poignant and funny. There is, however, some swearing, as well as some references to sexuality.

Who might like this book?

Others have compared this book to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I agree; both books share a window into the mind of someone we don’t always have the opportunity to engage with, and both books have engaging plots, sending their protagonists into parts of the world they’re not accustomed to. I also think readers interested in working in any capacity with people who have autism or Asperger syndrome would learn from and love this book. As a teacher who has read the book, I feel like I now have an even stronger understanding of how to effectively work with students of this population.

What did I like best?

Some aspects of the book were predictable, yet Stork builds suspense and keeps the reader guessing as to exactly how things will play out. Instead of feeling like, “I knew that was going to happen,” I found myself thinking, “I never would have guessed this character would have been the one to cause this!”

What wasn't my favorite?

I can't think of anything.

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