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Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

May 6, 2009

cover of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. StorkWarning: This might turn into one of those Trisha-was-so-blown-away-by-what-she-read-that-she-is-incoherent reviews, because Marcelo in the Real World is just a beautiful, unputdownable, unforgettable, oh my god *so* good book. Believe what you’ve read elsewhere about this book; it really is that good.

Marcelo Sandoval’s father would say Marcelo has a  cognitive disorder. Marcelo himself prefers to describe it as “excessive attempt[s] at cognitive order,” because there is nothing wrong with the way he perceives the world. True, Marcelo is easily overwhelmed by auditory and visual stimuli and his need to make sense of it all. He does not relate to most other people, but with practice and clear instructions, and his attendance at Paterson, a private school for students with disabilities, Marcelo is capable of functioning relatively normally. Now that Marcelo is seventeen, his father decides that it is time he learns to function “in the real world.” Therefore, Marcelo is to spend the summer working in the mail room of his father’s law firm.

Over the course of the summer, Marcelo learns about life in the real world, where, among the many things he learns, too many people are willing to take advantage of others. He begins to recognize emotions and feelings he’s never felt before, to live beyond the boundaries he previously restricted himself to. And through it all, Francisco X. Stork masterfully brings Marcelo to life, with intelligence and tenderness and so much heart.

At first, I did have a bit of difficulty falling into the rhythm of the book, so it took a couple of chapters for me to get into the story. Marcelo narrates the book and it reflects the way he views the world. Like Marcelo, the narration is deliberate and careful. Exact. Marcelo is very literal and needs clear explanations to understand words and concepts he hasn’t experienced or is unfamiliar with. Even before Marcelo tells us what his condition is, you can tell from the way he narrates that there is something different about him. When I hit chapter five, suddenly, things just clicked. I was invested in the story, invested in Marcelo. Because, did I mention how good it is? And, more than that, the connection Stork forges between readers and Marcelo, and how much I cared about Marcelo and everything he goes through? I haven’t reacted this way to a book since I read Jellicoe Road, and though I don’t love it as much as Jellicoe, I have to agree with everyone who thinks you’ll see a couple of shiny stickers on the (absolutely perfect) cover of Marcelo in the Real World come award season.

And here are some of the blog reviews I referred to at the start, because 1) I don’t think I could find them all, and 2) the list might end up being longer than what I wrote above: Angieville, Becky’s Book Reviews, Reading Rants, Reviewer X, YPulse. Or you can read the 5 (!) starred reviews its earned on Stork’s website. Also, behind the book with its editor Cheryl Klein and Becky’s interview with the author.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2009 7:19 am

    LOVED this book. In my 2009 Favorites already, and I haven’t even read that many books released in 09 yet. Great review, Trisha!

  2. May 7, 2009 8:06 am

    Loved your review 🙂

  3. May 7, 2009 8:31 am

    I have a copy of this one waiting for me. . .time to pick it up, obviously.

    And this post made me totally ready to read Jellicoe Road again.

  4. May 7, 2009 12:15 pm

    Yeah, this one is totally on my TBR pile (which is currently packed in a box marked “Books TBR!” so I can open it first thing when I get to where I’m goin’). Your review’s just made me look forward to it that much more!

  5. May 7, 2009 1:13 pm

    I completely agree. I loved this book. I foresee many awards for it, which it completely deserves. I’ve been going around trying to get everyone I know to read it.

  6. May 7, 2009 7:38 pm

    This looks great. I really love the cover, and I liked your review a lot!

  7. May 8, 2009 2:59 pm

    *happy sigh* This is one of my favorites of the year so far. It manages to leave you feeling good without feeling too Hollywood, too, which to my cynical eye is a feat.

  8. Becky permalink
    May 9, 2009 4:04 pm

    Sounds like a great book…. I can’t wait to read it. I just finished reading “Cornfield Heiress” by Errollynne Peters, which was a great memoir. I have been looking for something new to read and am so glad that I stumbled across this blog to learn about “Marcelo In the Real World.”

  9. May 10, 2009 7:58 am

    Ok, FINE. I’ll read it. But it better not be all Curious-Incident-Dog, ’cause that’s what it sounds like to me. And I’ve read that once and don’t need to do it again.

    • May 11, 2009 10:28 pm

      I haven’t read Curious Incident, so I can’t compare the two books for you. The flap copy for Marcelo does say it’s “reminiscent of” Curious Incident, though Kidliterate thinks they’re pretty different.

  10. May 11, 2009 5:16 am

    Canit wait to give this one a go, sounds great

  11. May 12, 2009 3:16 am

    I just had to weigh in again because I have read both CURIOUS INCIDENT and MARCELO. I didn’t find them similar at all, actually — it was a bit like saying that WHITE FANG and OLD YELLER were the same because they both involved dogs. I found CURIOUS INCIDENTS to be harder read — not in the sense of not liking it, but because the narrator was far more distant than Marcelo — and I also thought Marcelo felt more securely at home in the YA shelf.

    • May 12, 2009 10:11 am

      Thanks, Maggie. I was hoping someone who had read both would chime in.

  12. May 13, 2009 5:51 am

    I loved everything about this book including the cover. Great review, this book took all my words away.

  13. May 13, 2009 9:38 pm

    Oh, fab. Thanks Trisha & Maggie!

  14. May 22, 2009 11:10 am

    Beautiful review! I linked to it at my new blog.


  1. 2009 in brief « The YA YA YAs
  2. Two Printzes « The YA YA YAs
  3. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork « Regular Rumination
  4. Marcelo in the Real World | Tales of a Capricious Reader
  5. Review: Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork « Jenny's Books

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