Life’s lessons prove to be a challenging class to master for one young man

By Jo Ann Hernandez

LatinaLista — Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco Stork, is the tale of Marcelo Sandoval, a 17-year-old with an Asperger’s-like condition. 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).

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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.

The novel extends the summer and his job at the law firm. He develops relationships with some of his co-workers and begins to learn about love and how to tell when people are telling the truth. Marcelo discovers things about his father, which rocks his world like no other experience ever has, and he soon finds himself faced with a decision that may force him to reinvent his life.

Jo Ann Hernández is assistant Bookshelf editor and author of the award-winning “White Bread Competition” and “The Throwaway Piece,” as well as, creator and publisher of BronzeWord Latino Authors web site.

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