Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork

c2009 Fiction; Grades 9+; 312 p.
Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book 2009
Booklist Starred
: Seventeen-year-old Marcelo is on the very high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. He prefers an ordered existence, which includes taking care of the ponies at Paterson, his special school; reading religious books; and listening to the music in his head. Then his father, a high-powered attorney, insists that Marcelo spend the summer working in his law firm. If he does his best, Marcelo will be given the choice of returning to Paterson or being mainstreamed. After finding a photo of a disfigured girl injured by the negligence of his father’s biggest client, Marcelo must decide whether to follow his conscience and try to right the wrong, even as he realizes that decision will bring irrevocable changes to his life and to his relationship with his father. That story alone would be thought-provoking, but Stork offers much, much more. Readers are invited inside Marcelo’s head, where thoughts are so differently processed, one can almost feel them stretch and twist as the summer progresses and Marcelo changes. Much of the impetus for change comes from his relationship with his mailroom boss, Jasmine. In a chapter near the end, Jasmine takes Marcelo to the family farm in Vermont, where he meets her raunchy father. It’s a scene many writers wouldn’t have bothered with, but the layers it adds mark Stork as a true storyteller. Shot with spirtualism, laced with love, and fraught with conundrums, this book, like Marcelo himself, surprises.

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