“The right note sounds right and the wrong note sounds wrong.”
I'm not quite sure where to begin to talk about Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. I suppose I should mention that this was the first book I read this year for my TBR Challenge List. And I loved it. I did.
I added this book to my Goodreads "To Read" list way back in 2010, and finally got around to checking out our copy from the media center before my Christmas break. It was one of the few books I kept out in the open while packing, etc in hopes I would have a spare moment to read (HA), but it sat patiently on my nightstand until I finished book 1 of 2018. Then it was all mine.
I wasn't sure what to expect reading this, but I loved it. It's a very...calm book. Things happen and they're exciting and dramatic and heartbreaking and warm all at the same time, but because Marcelo is who he is, it's calm. It sinks in and surrounds you and you become Marcelo and hope that he doesn't see the evil and sorrow in the world. But he does. Because that's what the real world does to you.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Writing about books is hard after so long away from it that everything wants to come out all at once and I'm discombobulated. See? I should take this out, but I won't.
Marcelo is a 17 year old boy who has been diagnosed with something like Asperger's, but is so high-functioning that it isn't Asperger's. He has spent most of his life attending Paterson, a school for students like him, and because of that, has been sheltered from the "real world." His father, a very successful lawyer, tells Marcelo that he will spend the summer before his senior year working at his law firm instead of at Paterson working with the horses. Arturo (his father) has hopes that once Marcelo is in the "real world," he will see that he can function just fine with regular people and can attend a normal high school for his senior year. Marcelo hates the idea, but does it.
It is over this summer that Marcelo becomes a part of the real world. He befriends Jasmine, his boss in the mail room, and learns the ins and outs of functioning in the world. It comes with rough patches, with bad days, but Marcelo begins to learn that things are not always so black and white. That there is gray, which is hard for him to determine and understand.
I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this book, especially as it took me a few chapters to get into the story. But by the end, I was rooting for Marcelo, encouraging him in my own head as he challenged the delicate social constructs he had lived his life by. It was inspiring-to see the dramatic changes in a person once they are set free from an environment in which they are comfortable and are forced into awkward positions-making real decisions that could have life-altering consequences.
Most of all, I loved Marcelo's voice. It felt authentic. His confusion, his anger, his frustration-it all felt real and the language was beautiful to read.
“Then it comes to me. It cannot be that this is the first time I realized this, but it is. We all have ugly parts. I think of the time in the cafeteria when Jasmine asked me what the girl in the picture was asking me. How do we live with all the suffering? We see our ugly parts, and then we are able to forgive, love kindness, walk humbly.”
In some ways, this reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but this was better (is that an unpopular opinion?). I definitely want to read more by Stork (The Memory of Light is calling my name). Overall, a wonderful book that lifted my spirits in the gloom of winter.
“My brain is like a water faucet that I can turn on or off. Only now there is no off and the water of thoughts just flows.”