…Marcelo Sandoval is the bravest, most original hero I've met in years…The reader's conflictrooting for Marcelo to succeed yet unsure what success actually means for himenergizes Marcelo in the Real World, a brisk, brilliant, unsentimental novel…Marcelo is smart, thoughtful, decent, good-looking without knowing it. A great kid, just a little different. Must he be challenged to be fulfilled, emotionally endangered to match someone's idea of fitting in? The psychological and moral concerns of the novel are so marbled into the story that they never overwhelm it, making Marcelo in the Real World not only an important new young adult novel but a pleasure to read.
The New York Times
Part coming-of-age story, part mystery and wholly compelling, this novel takes readers into the mind of a young man who can "perceive more of reality than others." Marcelo proves a wise and unwittingly humorous companion as he navigates the complex relationships, workaday concerns and ethical dilemmas of the real world.
The Washington Post
Artfully crafted characters form the heart of Stork's (The Way of the Jaguar) judicious novel. Marcelo Sandoval, a 17-year-old with an Asperger's-like condition, has arranged a job caring for ponies at his special school's therapeutic-riding stables. But 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). 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. Not to be missed. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Elsworth Rockefeller
Marceloa teen who exhibits Asperger-like behaviors, including hearing a type of music no one else canis offered an ultimatum by his father: unless Marcelo can successfully complete a summer job as a mail room clerk in his father's law firm, he have to attend a "regular" high school for his senior year instead of the specialized school he has attended for his entire academic career. It would mean giving up his cherished position as a stable boy working with Haflinger ponies and facing his reservations about the "real world." In the mailroom, Marcelo becomes involved in a mystery, which requires him to push his skills to a new level and make decisions about his beliefs, his family, and his future. Marcelo is a believable character in a situation with which teens can empathize. The narrative is consistent and caringly crafted, offering a compelling examination of Marcelo's challenges and successes. Because many of the character interactions center on feelings and Marcelo's social growth, it would have been easy for the conversations to become didactic or over-the-top, but the author is able to keep the text focused and carry the story well. The nicely balanced mystery elements add texture to the plot and will keep readers engaged, and well-built secondary characters help the story feel complete. This beautifully written, insightful book is sure to resonate with many readers facing their own version of the real world, and belongs in all collections serving young adults and those who work with them. Reviewer: Elsworth Rockefeller
Children's Literature - Kathie M. Josephs
What an amazing book! Once I read the first page, I absolutely could not put it down. Marcelo hears internal music that no one else can hear. He has a condition similar to Asperger's Syndrome and sees a doctor who keeps asking him what the internal music sounds like, but he just can't find the best word to describe it. Marcelo is happy and successful while working with ponies at the riding stables that are part of the special school he attends. Then. his father tells Marcelo that he wants him to work in the mailroom of his law firm so that he can interact with the "real" world. He also explains that if Marcelo does this, he can choose if he wants to return to the special school or be mainstreamed into a regular education classroom for his senior year. It's a big decision, but he does work in the mailroom. There, he meets Jasmine and Wendall. Situations occur that involve feelings and situations Marcelo has never been exposed to (e.g., desire, anger, jealousy, doing the wrong thing to get ahead instead of doing the right thing just because it is right). In addition, he learns something about his father that was he was never supposed to know and sees a picture of a girl with half a face that changes everything for him and the law firm. I felt that we should all be more like Marcelo when making decision and just do the right thing. The wisdom the author put in this story far exceeds anything I have read in a long time. This book is warm, touching, intelligent, and excellently written. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up
Like Christopher Boone, the protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Doubleday, 2003), Marcelo Sandoval is a high-functioning, extremely self-aware teenager with Asperger's syndrome. He has an empathetic mother and a father, Arturo, who appears to be less empathetic as he pushes Marcelo to live in the "real world." The form the real world takes is a summer job in the mailroom at Arturo's law office. The teen is forced to think on his feet, multitask, and deal with duplicitous people who try to take advantage of him. Over the course of a summer, Marcelo learns that he can function in society; he is especially surprised to find that he can learn to read people's expressions, even to the point of knowing whom he can and cannot trust. 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. At a little over 300 pages, the story drags at some points, bogging down in the middle. However, the dilemmas that Marcelo faces are told in a compelling fashion, which helps to keep readers engaged.-Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
In what turns out to be considerably more than just another tale told by an intelligent narrator with a spectrum disorder, 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval gets a life-changing taste of the "real world" when he's forced to take a summer job in his father's law firm. Comfortable with his limitations but still anxious, Marcelo strikes gold immediately when Jasmine, his supervisor in the Mail Room, turns out to be an uncommonly perceptive young woman-unlike Wendell, the sex-obsessed son of his father's slimeball legal partner. Vicious office intrigues, Marcelo's long-standing fascination with religious thought and his discovery of a damning piece of suppressed evidence in a case involving his father's biggest corporate client all lead to a series of short but deep heart-to-heart conversations about ethics, God's will and other big questions. In the end Marcelo keeps his feet amid strong emotional currents, makes the hard choices and even maps out a personal future that wasn't at all clear earlier on. Making good on the promise of his Way of the Jaguar (2000), Stork delivers a powerful tale populated by appealing (and decidedly unappealing) characters and rich in emotional nuance. (Fiction. YA)