Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork

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Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: Thoughtful and uplifting, Marcelo in the Real World has a compelling narrative voice that adds an original edge to what is a poignant story. A very enjoyable read!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1407121000

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Marcelo has spent his childhood and the majority of his teenage years at Paterson, a private school that caters specifically for those with disabilities, providing them with a protected environment where they can learn at their own rate and feel accepted. However, his father Arturo feels that it is time that Marcelo experiences the real world and really challenges himself. Using the promise of a senior year spent at Paterson rather than a public school, Arturo coerces Marcelo to take up a small position for the summer in the law firm that he owns. In the firm, Marcelo is forced to interact regularly with a plethora of different personalities, and while some prove to be enjoyable company, others leave him feeling confused and distressed. Things really come to a head when he is forced to make a momentous decision, one that requires him to either ignore his conscience, or end up betraying his father and by extension himself; it is not a decision that is logical, and will require Marcelo to not only empathise with others, but also understand what makes himself tick.

Marcelo has an autistic spectrum disorder and he describes his condition as having certain similarities to Asperger's syndrome, which is characterised by an inability to interact comfortably socially, as well as a tendency for obsession. It means that he finds it more difficult to understand or empathise with the motives and emotions behind social interactions; instead of immediately reacting to the tone and body language of a person, Marcelo has to analyse the particular interaction over a period of time in order to make sense of more than just the literal meaning of the words being spoken. The author uses the law firm as a microcosm of society and it is there that Marcelo learns of certain social tensions and first meets people that invoke in him strong new emotions such as anger and love.

Marcelo is a brilliant creation. His condition gives him a unique outlook on life, and his fascination with religion lends a strong sense of morality to his behaviour and his decision making. His attempts to put into words and try to quantify intrinsic emotions and urges such as shame, anger, love, trust and distrust, makes for fascinating reading. Although the real world is harsher and more confusing than Paterson, it is also a place where positive emotions are enhanced, and Marcelo's budding relationship with his boss, the sharp but open-minded Jasmine, with whom he shares a love for music, symbolises this. The author introduces a wide palette of characters, and although many lack development, every personality is distinct and interesting.

Marcelo in the Real World is a coming of age novel that mingles with both very personal themes of self-discovery and love, as well as more serious themes of corruption and justice. Marcelo's autism adds a brilliant, brutally honest quality to the narrative voice that makes reading a continuously intriguing process. I wasn't fully convinced by some of the characters, and felt that the plot seemed to lack direction at times, feeling more like a string of vignettes than a cohesive storyline. Nonetheless, despite the leisurely pace of the story, I couldn't help but become immersed in the story, because Marcelo is such an honest and likeable protagonist, and his introspection and view of the world never feels contrived, but rather very rich and organic.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Recommended by The Bookbag for the young and the old, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is even more intriguing than its title suggests, and also features a protagonist who is on the autistic spectrum.

Buy Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork at Amazon.com.


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