Marcelo in the Real World

By Francisco X. Stork
Scholastic • 2011 • 320 pages
Paperback ($8.99)
ISBN: 978-0-545-05690-8
Ages 14 and up

Stork’s novel introduces Marcelo Sandoval, one of the most remarkable characters in contemporary fiction. Because Marcelo narrates his own story, readers will be able to delve into the mind and point of view of a mildly autistic character in a particularly vivid manner.

While the 17-year-old is extremely bright and frequently discusses God and religion with a rabbi, he also exhibits many of the limitations of his “disorder” (an avoidance of direct eye contact, difficulty interpreting figurative and sarcastic speech, discomfort at being touched) and generally fails to comprehend deceit and man’s inhumanity to man. Likewise, his inability to multi-task carries with it an extremely highly developed ability to focus and analyze (in fact, he finds the term “disorder” to be inappropriate to describe his condition, as placing and keeping things in order is one of his obsessions).

Read Related: My Perfect Son Has Autism

The story narrates Marcelo’s summer between his junior and senior years of high school when, at his father’s insistence, Marcelo goes to work at his corporate law firm. His father hopes that there, Marcelo will develop new skills to help him to deal with “the real world,” as he sees it. The experience opens Marcelo’s eyes in ways neither father nor son could have predicted, as the boy learns that in service to their most lucrative client, his father and his truly odious partner are concealing a corporation’s wrongdoing. Marcelo also has the chance to get to know Jasmine, his lovely, big-hearted co-worker who carries the secret of yet another chink in Marcelo’s father’s armor, and to meet one of the people most harmed by corporate malfeasance, but who has learned to forgive.

As the novel propels forward, it takes on aspects of a legal thriller, though the amazing and unforgettable Marcelo and his unique insight into life are the glue that holds the entire book together. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Cooper Renner, Retired Librarian, El Paso Independent School District, TX