April 26, 2010

Review of "Marcelo in the Real World"

"Marcelo in the Real World"
by Francisco X. Stork


Pub. Date: March 3rd, 2009
Pages: 320

Synopsis: Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and 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, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He 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.

Reminiscent of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.

I absolutely LOVED this book! Stork is a writer who knows how to tell a story. Not only was the plot interesting, but also beautifully written. Marcelo is a wonderful character and I enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes. I loved watching him mature as the summer unfolded. I understood why Marcelo's father wanted him to look at the law firm, but part of me was disappointed that Marcelo couldn't work with the pony's like he had been planning. Even though this happened at the beginning of the book, I truly felt how upsetting this change was to Marcelo. It surprised me how much I cared for him as a character so early on in the book. Some of the challenges that Marcelo faced were things I expected, but Stork surprised me with the ethical and moral decisions that Marcelo was forced to confront.

Another thing that really surprised me about the book was how honest the characters were. None of the characters were perfect, they all had flaws that were flushed out. This made them all feel more realistic, which made me fall in love with them all the more. Arturo, Marcelo's dad, is a character that I struggled with throughout the book. I agreed with Marcelo’s mother that he was just trying to do the best for him, but at the same time it seemed like he was concerned about what society thought about his family. My feelings about him got even more complicated by the end of the book (I would explain but I would be giving away too much), but sometimes family relationships are the most complicated ones that we have.

I wasn't sure where working at the law firm would take him, but the end of the book pleasantly surprised me. "Marcelo in the Real World" has mature language and deals with topics such as sexual exploitation; I would recommend this book to most readers, but I felt you should be aware of some of this content. Even though this is a beautiful story, it is also very realistic and doesn't sugarcoat life. There is a lot of religious discussion in the book, but it does not focus on one religion. I was not raised as a religious person, so I wasn't sure if this aspect of the book would bother me; however, Stork was able to bring it into a book in a way that doesn't feel preachy or exclusive. I truly feel that this is one of those rare books able to combine all my favorite elements that leaving me awed and content.


  1. This book looks interesting. I added it to my list.

  2. Medeia,
    I always thought this book sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure if it was something I would really be interested in reading. I saw the audio book at my library and randomly picked it up and now I am so glad I did!