by Francisco X. Stork
Opening line--"'Marcelo, are you ready?'"
Marcelo's brain is a little bit different. He doesn't like to use Asperger's Syndrome as his diagnosis, but it's the closest thing he has to help people understand. He attends a school which is designed for kids like him, which supports and nurtures. He's looking forward to spending the summer working with the ponies they keep before going back for his senior year. But then his father, a lawyer, challenges him to come and work at his Boston office for the summer. If he can make it in the "real world," Marcelo will be able to chose whether he wants to go back to his school or to the local public high school.
Another one of my late-to-the-game books, I wasn't quite sure what I would think of this one. In the end, I loved it. Marcelo is a great narrator and his story is often understated and quiet. Stork takes the time to linger over discussions of right and wrong, of religious problems, of love. In a world where books often feel like they're rushing to get to the next thing,* this was a nice change of pace.
As someone who is personally religious, I appreciated that Stork took Marcelo's interest in religion seriously. His desire to do the right thing as informed by his faith, and his difficulty in trying to figure out exactly what that right thing is rang very true for me. The solution that the book proposed also worked well for me. I know that this part is a very personal and subjective response, but it's a point of view that sometimes gets ignored and I was happy to see it seriously explored.
One of the other majorly successful aspects of the book was Marcelo's relatability. Obviously, he views the world differently than most of us, and yet at the bottom of it, this book is about things we all know. How do we relate to our parents, especially when they turn out to not be the people we thought they were? How do we decide what the right course is in a difficult situation? How do we know who our real friends are? How do we know when we're in love?
I also appreciated the fact that this didn't feel like an Issues book to me. It was a bit like Jellicoe Road
in that regard--if you go back and look at the different Issues that are touched on, it's clear that the story could easily have become that. But dealt with as deftly as here, the issues become secondary to the characters, which is exactly how it should be.
Perhaps the one slightly weak point for me was Wendell, just in the staticness of his character. But I'm willing to deal with that, given the general awesomeness.
As a note, there are some frank discussions of sex, although not graphic in any way.
Book source: public library
Book information: Arthur Levine, 2009
* Don't get me wrong, this often works. Marcelo
's slower pace was a good break, though.