- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 700 (What's this?)
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 054505690X
- ISBN-13: 978-0545056908
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 169 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marcelo In The Real World Paperback – February 1, 2011
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Stork delivers a powerful tale populated by appealing (and decidedly unappealing) characters and rich in emotional nuance.” -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Writing in a first-person narrative, Stork does an amazing job of entering Marcelo's consciousness and presenting him as a dynamic, sympathetic, and wholly believable character." -- School Library Journal, starred review
It is the rare novel that reaffirms a belief in goodness; rarer still is one that does so this emphatically.” -- Horn Book, starred review
Shot with spirtualism, laced with love, and fraught with conundrums, this book, like Marcelo himself, surprises.” -- Booklist, starred review
[I]n the skillful hands of Francisco X. Stork, 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval is the bravest, most original hero I've met in years [A] brisk, brilliant, unsentimental novel ” -- New York Times
Part coming-of-age story, part mystery and wholly compelling ” -- Washington Post
While several recent books have used the conceit of an autistic protagonist, this thoughtful novel full of complicated characters is unique.” -- Chicago Sun-Times
Stork has written a beautiful study of the loss of innocence, as the questions Marcelo confronts are ones everyone has to grapple with in some form or other ” -- Los Angeles Times
About the Author
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Seventeen year old Marcelo (pronounced "Marselo") is described as having an "autism-like" condition. That's as close as doctors can come to defining his unique gift of being able to hear music where no one else can. Unfortunately for Marcelo, his father doesn't see anything particularly rare or special about his son's gift. Instead, the father pushes Marcelo to take a job in the mailroom of his law firm --- dad's reasoning being that the position will teach Marcelo useful skills about "the real world" and put him on the path to success, rather than let his mind run away with creative dreamer fancies.
Once in the mailroom environment, Marcelo meets and befriends the lovely Jasmine and Wendell, the son of one of the partners at the law firm. As his father anticipated, the first days were an experience for Marcelo, to say the least, as another "autism-like" trait that Marcelo displays is a struggle with interpreting facial expressions. But thanks to classes Marcelo attends to help him learn tips & tricks to help him out with this (instruction in voice inflection, speech patterns, and the like), it actually doesn't take him too long to find his way. It's a tough time for the reader though. We have to watch Marcelo navigate around co-workers who assume he's mentally incompetent, or those who try to bully or take advantage of him because he can't immediate recognize that he is being tricked. This is the "real world" his father so desperately wanted him to be a part of... thanks, dad!
Marcelo develops a love for religious texts and often turns to reading or reciting scripture to himself to calm his nerves when the world starts to overwhelm him. At one point, he finds himself unexpectedly caught up in one of his father's most important legal cases, one that will push Marcelo to fight for what he believes in, regardless of what others around him might say.
After being published in 2009, in 2010 this novel was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award for Teen Fiction, an award that recognizes fiction that focuses on characters with disabilities.
I've come across pages of glowing reviews for this one, and while I did very much enjoy it, I can't comfortably join the 5 star crowd here. The story had some dents for me. I loved Marcelo, the way his mind worked and his unique style of interacting with others even if he didn't (admittedly) always understand all the unspoken social cues. Something in that I found myself relating to quite a bit. His friendship with Jasmine is sweet & lovely and I found myself wishing he and Wendell could get on a bit better. So the characters undeniably spoke to me on some level. My trouble was with the writing. Some of the characters came off just a little too weirdly staccato in their speech and mannerisms for my enjoyment. The flow of things just felt a shade off from natural. In Marcelo's case it's understandable and almost expected, given that he's been diagnosed with a "autism-like" condition, but that doesn't explain the other characters!
Also, if I'm being honest with my reading experience... there was just something a little... lackluster maybe?... with the plot as a whole, as far as pace and plot action. I was all about this story in the early pages! Those first few chapters definitely had me hooked. But this was one of those books where I could feel my love and interest of it slowly trickling down instead of racing up. Reading pages on end and then realizing later, "you know, that was actually a whole lotta nothing going on"... and the book's not even that long! Still, I did quite like Stork's message here -- the way Marcelo finds his own voice in a sea of so many others telling him what he needs or what he should do --- it made me curious to try out some of Stork's other works just to compare, so I now have a couple on order. Even with the elements I myself found problematic, I would still solidly recommend this to anyone looking for YA reads featuring the theme of autism and enhanced abilities.
What I enjoyed most about this story was the characterization. Stork does a masterful job of fleshing out all of them, not just the main players. And he does so with subtlety. You come to know Aurora through small actions—a look, a comment, a note of support for her son. Juliet is a hard nut of a secretary with little kindness, but she’s efficient, so she’s an asset to the firm and you know where you stand with her. It’s when she and Jasmine go toe-to-toe that you “meet and know" very well, too. And then there’s Wendell who is rather a stereotypical little rich boy with few scruples and ready to take advantage of anyone if allowed.
I found Jasmine to be the strongest of characters in the book. I envied her clear vision of right and wrong, which was exactly what Marcelo needed as he worked his way through the real world’s moral shades of gray. Stork injects both pathos and humor for his characters throughout the book, so you must care for them all in some way.
Stork’s language is perfect. And I fell into the story a lot of times because I was enjoying the way he revealed Marcelo. Here’s one of my favorites. “In some way, the strange-looking streets are simply a reflection of my thoughts. It seems perfectly natural to be lost outside when that’s the way I am inside. No landmarks anywhere.”
I was least satisfied with the ending. I didn’t want a neatly wrapped up ending with the rotten guys punished and good guys rewarded, but I wanted one beat more. For example, I wanted to see Wendell again without his privileged smirk. But overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.