Marcelo in the Real World by Franciso X. Stork (Canada) -(US)
Pages: 315 pages
Finished: Feb. 26, 2010
First Published: Mar. 1, 2009
Genre: realistic fiction, YA, Aspergers
"Marcelo, are you ready?"
Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.
Reason for Reading: I have Aspergers and have wanted to read this book since I first heard of it.
Summary: Seventeen year old Marcelo has Aspergers (high functioning form of autism) though he doesn't like to label himself that way but when asked does say that the closest diagnosis for his condition would be Aspergers. He's lived a very happy life, going to an upscale private school for kids with learning or psychological difficulties. Here he is allowed to be himself, follow his interest and gently learn how to communicate with the "normals". Aspies have obsessions and Marcello's special interests (as he prefers to call them) are first and foremost God. His family is Catholic, he prays the rosary and memorizes scripture but he also reads theology from all sorts of perspectives and meets regularly with a Rabbi friend of his mother's for hour long sessions on discussing God. His other interest is Halflinger ponies which are raised at his school and used as therapy for autistic and other hard to reach children. He looks after them and has planned once again to work there this summer vacation but Marcelo's father has a different plan for him this time. His father refuses to believe that Marcelo has any sort of condition that (now that he's a man) getting out in the "real world" will not help him overcome and he has arranged for Marcello to work in his law firm's mail room for the summer with the stipulation that if he does well he can decide whether he wants to go back to his special school for his last year of high school or to public school but if he fails to meet all tasks assigned to him he will have to go to public school for his last year. Thus his father hopes a dose of "real world" will cure his son.
Comments: I loved this book! I have Aspergers myself and I was continuously turning page corners down because there would be sentences or groups of them that would ring so true for me. Being female my outward presentation is very different than Marcelo's (except for the eyes thing) but I found such a soul mate with his inner thoughts, fears and reasonings with the "real world". Marcelo does not want to go to the law firm at first and is very annoyed. This part of the book gave me great anxiety as I knew how Marcelo felt and I didn't want him to have to go either. But as it turns out Marcelo is very good at communication, yes he's blunt and forthright, not always saying the most appropriate things but he certainly did not let that stop him for speaking which was an inspiring trait of his for someone who rarely speaks unless necessary.
This is a coming of age story as Marcelo pushes his boundaries to experience new things in his life but he also end ups facing the same challenges we all do when we take that step from childhood to adulthood. Marcelo comes upon something in the law office that shocks him and he knows is not right, he is compelled to do something about it but when he has finally tracked down the information he needs and confronted with his choices of action he must decide between the good of his family over the good of the unjustly treated. Marcelo's Aspergers actually helps him a lot in making decisions, looking at things logically, putting his knowledge of God to the test, and in accomplishing routine tasks at work very efficiently.
The story is also a romance though Marcelo does not figure this out until the end of the book! Marcello has a lack of emotions. He feels them but does not recognize them for what they are when he has them nor can he show them outwardly very well without faking it on purpose because he believes it would be appropriate. This lack of emotion is an obvious sign of Aspergers in males but is not always found to this degree and it is much less common in females, at least at a visibly noticeable level. So when Marcelo becomes friendly with his co-worker Jasmine, he does not realize why he thinks of her so much and says poetical things to her about her eyes, etc. He tells her truths about herself which are so honest and innocent such as "Does Jasmine know she is beautiful?" that the reader can tell Jasmine (18 years old) is falling for him. What follows is a beautiful awakening of awareness of romantic feelings in Marcello.
I could go on and on writing about every individual aspect of this book! It's wonderful. A fantastic look inside the mind of a young adult male with Aspergers. Others with Aspergers will feel Marcelo's anxieties as they read, the writing is that good. I was worried for a while as the book started to near the end that things wouldn't end the way I had envisioned they should but happily for me everything swung into position at the last moment and the ending was the best one possible. You are missing a treat if you don't read this book.