by Francisco X. Stork
First sentence: “‘Marcelo, are you ready?'”
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It took me too long to get to this book.
I don’t know why it took me so long — perhaps it was a bit of the “if it’s that hyped, it can’t be that good”phobia I have — but honestly, you think after nearly six years of blogging, I’d have learned to trust you all. Because when you say a book is good, the book is good. (Which means, I suppose, I should cave and read Maze Runner soon.)
For the ten out there who haven’t read the book, it’s the summer before seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval’s senior year. He’s on the autism spectrum; he likes to tell people his “condition” is closest to Asperger Syndrome, but even that doesn’t describe it fully. It takes a while for him to process interactions with other people. He hears something akin to music in his head, something he can’t quite describe to other people. His fixation is religion, though he loves working with the ponies at Paterson, a school for disabled children. Life is good, or at least as good as Marcelo wants it.
Then his father, who has never really accepted there is anything “wrong” with Marcelo, decides that Marcelo has been disadvantaged by living in a bubble world at Paterson, and that what he needs is a good dose of the real world. He arranges for Marcelo to work in the mail room at his law firm, something which Marcelo doesn’t really want to do. And yet, because his father is insistent, it’s what he ends up doing. And, for good or ill — or maybe a little bit of both — he ends up experiencing a little bit of the real world.
Written from Marcelo’s point of view, and in Marcelo’s voice, readers are invited into his world, a place I found amazing. Marcelo is comfortable with who he is, and he tries so hard to understand the world around him. His explorations of religion were fascinating, as is, as he gets deeper into the real world, his questions about beauty, about sex and about human interactions. (Yes, it’s frank, and there is some language, but nothing ever felt gratuitous.) There’s a bit of a legal mystery and romance to add to the inner dialogue that Marcleo has. It’s a deep book, one full of difficult questions and tough answers. And yet, as I finished it, I was surprised at the love and the hope that radiated from it, which brought tears to my eyes.
In short: absolutely wonderful.