Friday, May 21, 2010

Review Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Friday, May 21, 2010
In Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork introduces a different type of protagonist that forces the reader to redefine the incessant need to label people who are different from the norm. Marcelo, may not be able to read facial expressions with the accuracy most of us take for granted, or navigate city streets with ease, and his conversations might be stiff and self-conscious, but his story is one that will have you rooting for him to succeed.

The main conflict in the story is that Marcelo’s father, a successful Mexican-American Harvard lawyer, wants Marcelo to venture out of his protected environment and enter what his father sees as the “real world.” He makes a deal with Marcelo that requires him to work for the summer at his father’s law firm instead of at Paterson, Macelo’s private school for disabled children, taking care  the therapy ponies that Marcelo loves so much. If Marcelo’s summer job is successfully completed then in the fall Marcelo will be allowed to return to Paterson instead of attending a “normal” high school. This sets into motion Marcelo’s foray into a world of competition and deceit, and his success is threatened when he finds the picture of a young girl whose face is disfigured from a windshield manufactured by his father’s biggest client. Unable to forget this girl, Marcelo’s is forced to make a decision with painful consequences.

Marcelo is one of most extraordinary characters I have ever met. Despite the challenges he faces he understands himself in a way that I myself envy. He knows he is different and is able to explain his difference ...”I view myself as different in the way I think, talk, and act, but not as someone who is abnormal or ill.”  He has a “pervasive interest in God” and music and these special interests are a huge part of who he is.He has a child-like innocence when dealing with others, but he is also very attuned to what constitutes right and wrong. In the "real world" it becomes obvious that those special qualities might get lost. Throughout the story, I found myself greatly concerned and hoping that Marcelo does not lose himself as he develops the "street smarts" his father feels is necessary for Marcelo to survive.

As the story progresses and Marcelo interacts with various other characters in the book. He begins to form a relationship with Jasmine, the mailroom clerk who has been given the task of teaching Marcelo his job at the firm. Jasmine is a well-drawn character. She is patient with Marcelo, but she is also very straightforward, and genuine. She is quick to ask Marcelo what’s wrong with him. The intercourse that takes place as Marcelo explains to Jasmine about his differences, and special interests is definitely one of my favorite scenes. As the summer progresses a bond between Jasmine and Marcelo is formed.  With Jasmine’s help, Marcelo is able to figure out the right thing to do not only about the ethical problem he faces with his father’s law firm, but with his future.

Another character Marcelo interacts with is Wendell, the son of his father’s partner, who is also working at the firm for the summer. Wendell is a self-serving, rich snot whose arrogance is almost comical and clearly understood each time he interacts with Marcelo. Where Wendell is conniving and deceitful, Marcelo is genuine and forthright, and it was very satisfying to see how Marcelo eventually bests Wendell.  Both Jamsine and Wendell provide a great deal of insight into Marcelo’s character and allows the reader to see Marcelo’s growth in the story.

I was enthralled with Marcelo in the Real World. Stork truly understood his characters and while this is not a fast-paced book, it was never a boring read. I loved the layers the plot offered and how important each character was to the story. If you have not read Marcelo in the Real World,  I strongly recommend that you do as it is a wonderful book with a wow factor worthy of five cherries.


Diane said...

This story sounds so good, and your review was fabulous. Thanks so much for bringing this one to my attention.

Stephanie said...

This is one of my favorite YA novels, and it's the first book I reviewed when i became a book blogger. :-) Your review is terrific! I agree that this was a multi-layered story.

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