Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
Marcelo has Asperger’s Syndrome, and says that he fails to understand others’ emotions and expressions. He admits that he may not be able to feel the same thing that others describe as love. He is intrigued by religion—maybe it’s more accurate to say that he is obsessed with God—and visits with a female rabbi, although he isn’t Jewish. He hears something in his head which he describes as music for lack of a better word. He likes his world to be very ordered and needs private space. He sleeps in a tree house, refers to himself in the third person, and goes to Patterson, a special school, where he has a job caring for ponies.
Marcelo’s first crisis in the novel begins when his father, Arturo, tells him that he doesn’t want Marcelo to go to Patterson for his senior high school year. He’d prefer it if Marcelo went to the regular high school. However, he gives Marcelo an out—if he will work all summer in the law firm (in a way that is satisfactory to Arturo) where his father is a partner, Arturo will allow him to choose where to spend his senior year. Arturo, feels that Marcelo must learn something about ‘the real world.’
The irony is that while Arturo expects that Marcelo will have to deal with real things like bus schedules and getting around town, his simple job in the mail room actually brings him in contact with elements of the real world that Arturo never thought about. The son of another law firm partner, Wendell, is in college and also working in the firm during the summer. He is narcissistic and feels entitled to everything he can get. When the mailroom supervisor, Jasmine, is not interested in him, he attempts to employ Marcelo in cornering her for a sexual encounter. Marcelo, who believes that Wendell is his friend, doesn’t understand such subterfuge. He simply asks Wendell if he loves Jasmine.
Over the course of the summer, Marcelo begins to understand the deceptions that are at the heart of everything Wendell asks of him. Wendell threatens to expose Arturo if Marcelo doesn’t cooperate. When Marcelo finds a picture of a girl whose face is horribly scarred from a defective windshield–manufactured by a client of the law firm’s—he must make some serous moral choices. And Jasmine is there to help him.
This novel has multiple layers of meaning when showing us ‘the real world.’ It is on every ‘best book’ list there is. Including mine. A great read. Try it.