|Title: Marcelo In the Real World
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Published: March 2009
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Recently re-read this one. It’s a great piece of YA lit, and a personal favorite.
The story follows Marcelo Sandoval, a teenage boy, who is also on the autism spectrum. His father, a powerful corporate lawyer, is determined that his son experience the real world for a summer, instead of staying in a comfort zone. This means, A — Marcelo can’t spend a summer volunteering with his school’s Halflinger pony therapy programs and B — Marcelo has to intern at his father’s law firm.
This sudden, intense immersion into the “real world” would be hard for any person, but for someone with autism, it’s a formidable challenge. The real joy of this book is how Marcelo converges with this new environment, struggles with it, and ultimately succeeds — on his own terms.
It’s amazing how well Francisco X. Stork captures the voice of an autistic teenager with Marcelo’s narration. Stork expertly captures all the tics of autism in the first person, but also the humanity and emotion of a person with Asperger’s. Marcelo’s narration is not a chore to read, not inaccessible, and not boring. During my first read-through, especially, I was surprised at how accessible and relatable Marcelo’s character was. The richness of his character makes for a compelling and emotionally satisfying read.
Another standout character is Jasmine, the beautiful, young employee who is charged with “babysitting” Marcelo. Their partnership grows so organically and sweetly and provides the beating heart of the novel. The rest of the supporting characters are all equally strong and makes the book a real ensemble cast, as it were.
Everyone who is interested in the synopsis should give this book a shot. It’s a YA book with a brain and a heart.