Seventeen year old Marcelo is different from other boys his age. His ‘special interest’ in religion, his inability to understand the world around him and his way of speaking of everyone in the third person place him firmly on the autistic spectrum. But as the story develops we see that his bravery, his sense of justice and his determination to succeed are also characteristics that define him, perhaps also differentiating him from his peers.
Francisco X. Stork has written an absorbing novel, where Marcelo’s father bargains with his son’s future. In order to stay in the sheltered world of his private school, he must complete a summer at his father’s law firm. To many readers this is still not ‘the real world’ as it is still a privileged and affluent environment, but to Marcelo it is as alien an environment as anything he has ever known.
Reminiscent to some extent of Jodi Picoult’s House Rules, I preferred the straightforward perspective that Marcelo narrates. Picoult uses a constantly shifting perspective which feels at times to be contrived. With Stork’s first person narrator, Marcelo’s descriptions of other people’s actions and reactions generate a more subtle effect. Readers can appreciate all the difficulties Marcelo has with communication without having it explained in minute detail.
Marcelo is funny, courageous and kind and watching him develop through the novel makes a delightful read for teenagers and young adults. I suspect that adults too will warm to Marcelo and will soon be adding Stork’s other titles to their wishlist.