Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo In The Real WorldMarcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork 
New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2009
312 pages
3 out of 5

Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear -- part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify.  But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo's unique perception of reality, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the join "the real world."  There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.  He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire.  But it's a picture he finds in a file -- a picture of a girl with half a face -- that truly connects him with the real world: it's suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

I'm still not completely sure what I think of this novel. It took a second start for me to get into it, but even then it didn't always keep me.  It's well written. I like Marcelo and Jasmine. I want to punch Wendell in the face.

Marcelo is an interesting character, trying to get through life with an autism-like disorder. He manages well but it often bewildered by facial expressions and literal phrases that people use. The shift in his perspective is best part of the novel. He goes from his self-restricted world of his tree house, Paterson and the ponies, to the "real world" where he learns more than he thought possible. The understanding that eventually sets in is actually very sad.  It's the same as watching a child lose his innocence. And once it's gone, it cannot be retrieved.

Some of the plot points of the novel came up a bit short for me though. The mystery element was interesting for a bit, but then it began to feel like it was included simply for set-up and not for its own merit.  This element in particular redeems somewhat redeems itself.  For much of the second half of the novel, it felt like a lot was happening all at once but the conclusions were not completely satisfying.

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