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Marcelo in the Real Worldby Francisco Stork
Marcelo, a teen on the autism spectrum working at his father's law office for the summer (in Boston — and I'm from Boston!), grapples with his sense of right and wrong. At first glance, Marcelo in the Real World looks like a straightforward legal mystery, but tangled up in this drama is a well-crafted novel about an ethical dilemma from an outsider's perspective. Part Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, part John Grisham, and part I Am the Messenger, this book is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. It blew me away.
Synopses & Reviews
Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear — part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify — and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "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: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.
Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.
"Artfully crafted characters form the heart of Stork's (The Way of the Jaguar) judicious novel. Marcelo Sandoval, a 17-year-old with an Asperger's-like condition, has arranged a job caring for ponies at his special school's therapeutic-riding stables. But he is forced to exit his comfort zone when his high-powered father steers Marcelo to work in his law firm's mailroom (in return, Marcelo can decide whether to stay in special ed, as he prefers, or be mainstreamed for his senior year). Narrating with characteristically flat inflections and frequently forgetting to use the first person, Marcelo manifests his anomalies: he harbors an obsession with religion (he regularly meets with a plainspoken female rabbi, though he's not Jewish); hears 'internal' music; and sleeps in a tree house. Readers enter his private world as he navigates the unfamiliar realm of menial tasks and office politics with the ingenuity of a child, his voice never straying from authenticity even as the summer strips away some of his differences. Stork introduces ethical dilemmas, the possibility of love, and other 'real world' conflicts, all the while preserving the integrity of his characterizations and intensifying the novel's psychological and emotional stakes. Not to be missed. Ages 14 — up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A summer job with a prestigious law firm might fuel the dreams of a bright high school senior, but Marcelo Sandoval has other ambitions. The teen, who has Asperger syndrome, plans to train the therapeutic ponies at his special school, but his lawyer father, Arturo, wants him to work in the "real world," specifically the mailroom of his firm, Sandoval and Holmes. As Marcelo learns, this entails making... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) eye contact and small talk, keeping quiet about his interest in religion and music and dealing with harried people. Arturo also hopes his highly intelligent but naive son will develop street smarts and a greater awareness of the motives behind people's actions. Indeed, Marcelo begins to do just that when he stumbles upon a case the firm wants to hide. With the help of his supervisor, a resilient young woman named Jasmine, Marcelo pieces together clues in hopes he can help a disfigured girl. What should he do, though, when the girl's needs conflict with his father's professional obligations? Part coming-of-age story, part mystery and wholly compelling, this novel takes readers into the mind of a young man who can "perceive more of reality than others." Marcelo proves a wise and unwittingly humorous companion as he navigates the complex relationships, workaday concerns and ethical dilemmas of the real world. — Mary Quattlebaum Reviewed by Various Reviewers, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel challenges the boundaries of autism. It is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.
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About the Author
Francisco Stork studied Latin American literature at Harvard before completing a law degree at Columbia University. Publishers Weekly praised his first novel The Way of the Jaguar, as "a splendidly intense debut". His second book, Behind the Eyes, was selected as both a Commended title for the Americas Award and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age.
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