Marcelo in the Real World
By Francisco X. Stork
I liked Marcelo. I was immediately drawn into the book, Marcelo in the Real World, by the main character.
Seventeen year old Marcelo is diagnosed with something close to Asperger’s and attends a special school, Paterson. He doesn’t really fit in there, but he is comfortable and is hesitant to change to a mainstream school. His father, Arturo, has decided that Marcelo will spend his summer experiencing “the real world”. Marcelo will work in the mail room at his father’s law firm. At the end of the summer, a decision will be made about school.
Marcelo has his quirks, but is a kind and relatable hero. He faces many challenges. This is one of those books I read straight through. The story is told through first person and in the beginning Marcelo often refers to himself in third person, which is odd but not distracting and adds to the character. I do not know of any people on the spectrum who speak this way, but Marcelo does. Marcelo’s observations of his co-workers, situations, and people he encounters is interesting.
In the course of an assigned task, Marcelo comes across some information at the law firm. This information forces him to make some hard decisions about right and wrong that will have great impact on many lives, including his own.
Religions are said to be Marcelo’s special interest. I liked that Francisco Stork portrayed an autistic character who has deep conversations and questions about spiritual matters.
There was a few inconsistencies of behavior or thought patterns, it seems to me, but the story engaged enough that these incidents did not interrupt the flow of the story. Marcelo In The Real World explores many issues that are good for discussion. The book ended satisfactorily. It is a well-crafted work with strong moral questions and themes. I felt the portrayal of Marcelo was respectful and interesting. This is a thought provoking book.
In my opinion, the targeted audience for this book is too young.
Scholastic has a free discussion guide to go along with Marcelo In The Real World here.
Issues of concern
I suggest parents preview the book. I feel this book is more appropriate for older than the intended or labeled age group. There are issues of discrimination, another worker’s inappropriate conduct toward female co-workers, questions of morality vs legalities, language, frank discussions of sex, and religious themes/discussions. At least one moment of irreverence. I listened to the book rather than reading and did not make notes of issues of concern so may have missed something.
I listened to the audiobook read by Lincoln Hoppe and found the recording and reading to be well done.
You can watch a video of an author interview here. This explains why the character seems a bit inconsistent as far as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s.
You may also be interested my short list of Books and Movies for Autism Acceptance Month.
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