The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, September 20


A “mesmerizing, poetic exploration of family, friendship, love and loss” from the acclaimed author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. (New York Times Book Review)

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he? 
      This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328498021
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 76,907
Product dimensions: (w) x (h) x 1.17(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an acclaimed writer for adults and teens. His novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe won a Printz Honor Award, the Pura Belpre, Lambda, and Stonewall Book Awards. Mr. Sáenz lives in El Paso, Texas.  

Read an Excerpt


I have a memory that is almost like a dream: the yellow leaves from Mima’s mulberry tree are floating down from the sky like giant snowflakes. The November sun is shining, the breeze is cool, and the afternoon shadows are dancing with a life that is far beyond my boyhood understanding. Mima is singing something in Spanish. There are more songs living inside her than there are leaves on her tree.
     She is raking the fallen leaves and gathering them. When she is done with her work, she bends down and buttons my coat. She looks at her pyramid of leaves and looks into my eyes and says, “Jump!” I run and jump onto the leaves, which smell of the damp earth.
     All afternoon, I bathe in the waters of those leaves.
     When I get tired, Mima takes my hand. As we walk back into the house, I stop, pick up a few leaves, and hand them to her with my five-year-old hands. She takes the fragile leaves and kisses them.
     She is happy.
     And me? I have never been this happy.
     I keep that memory somewhere inside me—​where it’s safe. I take it out and look at it when I need to. As if it were a photograph.

Life Begins

Dark clouds were gathering in the sky, and there was a hint of rain in the morning air. I felt the cool breeze on my face as I walked out the front door. The summer had been long and lazy, crowded with hot and rainless days.
     Those summer days were over now.
     The first day of school. Senior year. I’d always wondered what it would be like to be a senior. And now I was about to find out. Life was beginning. That was the story according to Sam, my best friend. She knew everything. When you have a best friend who knows everything, it saves you a lot of work. If you have a question about anything, all you have to do is turn to her and ask and she’ll just give you all the information you need. Not that life is about information.
     Sam, she was smart as hell. And she knew stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. She also felt stuff. Oh, man, could Sam feel. Sometimes I thought she was doing all the thinking, all the feeling, and all the living for both of us.
     Sam knew who Sam was.
     Me? I guess I wasn’t always so sure. So what if sometimes Sam was an emotional exhibitionist, going up and down all the time? She could be a storm. But she could be a soft candle lighting up a dark room. So what if she made me a little crazy? All of it—​all her emotional stuff, her ever-changing moods and tones of voice—​it made her seem so incredibly alive.
     I was a different story. I liked keeping it calm. I guess I had this control thing over myself. But sometimes I felt as if I weren’t doing any living at all. Maybe I needed Sam because being around her made me feel more alive. Maybe that wasn't logical, but maybe the thing we call logic is overrated.
     So on the first day of school, the supposed beginning of our lives, I was talking to myself as I headed toward Sam’s house. We walked to school together every day. No cars for us. Shit. Dad liked to remind me that I didn’t need a car. “You have legs, don’t you?” I loved my dad, but I didn’t always appreciate his sense of humor.
     I texted Sam as I reached her front door: I’m here! She didn’t answer.
     I stood there waiting. And, you know, I got this weird feeling that things weren’t going to be the same. Sam called feelings like that premonitions. She said we shouldn’t trust them. She consulted a palm reader when we were in the ninth grade, and she became an instant cynic. Still, that feeling rattled me because I wanted things to stay the same—​I liked my life just fine. If things could always be the way they were now. If only. And, you know, I didn’t like having this little conversation with myself—​and I wouldn’t have been having it if Sam had just had a sense of time. I knew what she was up to. Shoes. Sam could never decide on the shoes. And since it was the first day of school, it really mattered. Sam. Sam and her shoes.
     Finally she came out of the house as I was texting Fito. His dramas were different from Sam’s. I’d never had to live in the kind of chaos Fito endured every day of his life, but I thought he was doing pretty well for himself.
     “Hi,” Sam said as she walked over, oblivious to the fact that I’d been standing there waiting. She was wearing a blue dress. Her backpack matched her dress, and her earrings dangled in the soft breeze. And her shoes? Sandals. Sandals? I waited all this time for a pair of sandals she bought at Target?
     “Great day,” she said, all smiles and enthusiasm.
     “Sandals?” I said. “That’s what I was waiting for?”
     She wasn’t going to let me throw her off her game. “They’re perfect.” She gave me another smile and kissed me on the cheek.
     “What was that for?”
     “For luck. Senior year.”
     “Senior year. And then what?”
     “Don’t bring that word up again. That’s all we’ve talked about all summer.”
     “Wrong. That’s all I’ve talked about. You were a little absent during those discussions.”
     “Discussions. Is that what they were? I thought they were monologues.”
     “Get over it. College! Life, baby!” She made a fist and held it high in the air.
     “Yeah. Life,” I said.
     She gave me one of her Sam looks. “First day. Let’s kick ass.”
     We grinned at each other. And then we were on our way. To begin living.

The first day of school was completely forgettable. Usually I liked the first day—​everybody wearing new clothes and smiles of optimism, all the good thoughts in our heads, all the good attitudes floating around like gas balloons in a parade, and the pep rally slogans—​Let’s make this the greatest year ever! Our teachers were all about telling us how we had it in us to climb the ladder of success in hopes that we might actually get motivated to learn something. Maybe they were just trying to get us to modify our behavior. Let’s face it, a lot of our behavior needed to be modified. Sam said that ninety percent of El Paso High School students needed behavior modification therapy.
     This year I just was not into this whole first-day experience. Nope. And then of course Ali Gomez sat in front of me in my AP English class for the third year in a row. Yeah, Ali, a leftover from past years who liked to flirt with me in hopes that I’d help her with her homework. As in do it for her. Like that was going to happen. I had no idea how she managed to get into AP classes. She was living proof that our educational system was questionable. Yeah, first day of school. For-get-ta-ble.
     Except that Fito didn’t show. I worried about that guy.
     I’d met Fito’s mother only once, and she didn’t seem like she was actually living on this planet. His older brothers had all dropped out of school in favor of mood-altering substances, following in their mother’s footsteps. When I met his mother, her eyes had been totally bloodshot and glazed over and her hair was all stringy and she smelled bad. Fito had been embarrassed as hell. Poor guy. Fito. Okay, the thing with me is that I was a worrier. I hated that about me.

Sam and I were walking back home after our forgettable first day at school. It looked like it was going to rain, and like most desert rats, I loved the rain. “Air smells good,” I told her.
     “You’re not listening to me,” she said. I was used to that I’m-annoyed-with-you tone she sometimes took with me. She’d been going on and on about hummingbirds. She was all about hummingbirds. She even had a hummingbird T-shirt. Sam and her phases. “Their hearts beat up to one thousand, two hundred and sixty beats per minute.”
     I smiled.
     “You’re mocking me,” she said.
     “I wasn’t mocking you,” I said. “I was just smiling.”
     “I know all your smiles,” she said. “That’s your mocking smile, Sally.” Sam had started calling me Sally in seventh grade because even though she liked my name, Salvador, she thought it was just too much for a guy like me. “I’ll start calling you Salvador when you turn into a man—​and, baby, you’re a long way off from that.” Sam, she definitely didn’t go for Sal, which was what everyone else called me—​except my dad, who called me Salvie. So she got into the habit of calling me Sally. I hated it. What normal guy wants to be called Sally? (Not that I was going for normal.) Look, you couldn’t tell Sam not to do something. If you told her not to do it, ninety-seven percent of the time she did it. Nobody could out-stubborn Sam. She just gave me that look that said I was going to have to get over it. So, to Sam, I was Sally.
     That’s when I began calling her Sammy. Everyone has to find a way to even up the score.
     So, anyway, she was giving me the lowdown on the statistics of hummingbirds. She started getting mad at me and accusing me of not taking her seriously. Sam hated to be blown off. WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE LIVES HERE. She had that posted on her locker at school. I think she stayed up at night thinking of mottoes. The substance part, well, I got that. Sam wasn’t exactly shallow. But I liked to remind her that if I was a long way off from being a man, she was an even longer way off from being a woman. She didn’t like my little reminder. I got that shut-up look.
     As we were walking, she was carrying on about hummingbirds and then lecturing me about my chronic inability to listen to her. And I was thinking, Man, when Sam gets going, she really gets going. I mean, she was really jumping into my shit. Finally I had to—​I mean, I had to—​interrupt her. “Why do you always have to pick a fight with me, Sammy? Look, I’m not making fun. And it’s not as if you don’t know that I’m not exactly a numbers guy. Me and numbers equals no bueno. When you give me stats, my eyes glaze over.”
     As my dad liked to say, Sam was “undeterred.” She started in again, but this time it wasn’t me who interrupted her—​it was Enrique Infante. He’d come up behind us as Sam and I were walking. And all of a sudden he jumped in front of me and was in my face. He looked right at me, pushed his finger into my chest, and said, “Your dad’s a faggot.”
     Something happened inside me. A huge and uncontrollable wave ran through me and crashed on the shore that was my heart. I suddenly lost my ability to use words, and, I don’t know, I’d never been that angry and I didn’t know what was really happening, because anger wasn’t normal for me. It was as if I, the Sal I knew, just went away and another Sal entered my body and took over. I remember feeling the pain in my own fist just after it hit Enrique Infante’s face. It all happened in an instant, like a flash of lightning, only the lightning wasn’t coming from the sky, it was coming from somewhere inside of me. Seeing all that blood gush out of another guy’s nose made me feel alive. It did. That’s the truth. And that scared me.
     I had something in me that scared me.
     The next thing I remember was that I was staring down at Enrique as he lay on the ground. I was my calm self again—​well, not calm, but at least I could talk. And I said, “My dad is a man. He has a name. His name is Vicente. So if you want to call him something, call him by his name. And he’s not a faggot.”
     Sam just looked at me. I looked back at her. “Well, this is new,” she said. “What happened to the good boy? I never knew you had it in you to punch a guy.”
     “I didn’t either,” I said.
     Sam smiled at me. It was kind of a strange smile.
     I looked down at Enrique. I tried to help him up, but he wasn’t having any of it. “Fuck you,” he said as he picked himself up off the ground.
     Sam and I watched as he walked away.
     He turned around and flipped me the bird.
     I was a little stunned. I looked at Sam. “Maybe we don’t always know what we have inside us.”
     “True that,” Sam said. “I think there are a lot of things that find a hiding place in our bodies.”
     “Maybe those things should keep themselves hidden,” I said.
     We slowly made our way home. Sam and I didn’t say anything for a long time, and that silence between us was definitely unsettling. Then Sam finally said, “Nice way to begin senior year.”
     That’s when I started shaking.
     “Hey, hey,” she said. “Didn’t I tell you this morning that we should kick some ass?”
     “Funny girl,” I said.
     “Look, Sally, he deserved what he got.” She gave me one of her smiles. One of her take-it-easy smiles. “Okay, okay, so you shouldn’t go around hitting people. No bueno. Maybe there’s a bad boy inside you just waiting to come out.”
     “Nah, not a chance.” I told myself that I’d just had this really strange moment. But something told me she was right. Or halfway right, anyhow. Unsettled. That’s how I felt. Maybe Sam was right about things hiding inside of us. How many more things were hiding there?
     We walked the rest of the way home in silence. When we were close to her house, she said, “Let’s go to the Circle K. I’ll buy you a Coke.” I sometimes drank Coke. Kind of like a comfort drink.
     We sat on the curb and drank our sodas.
     When I dropped Sam off at her house, she hugged me. “Everything’s gonna be just fine, Sally.”
     “You know they’re gonna call my dad.”
     “Yeah, but Mr. V’s cool.” Mr. V. That’s what Sam called my dad.
     “Yeah,” I said. “But Mr. V happens to be my dad—​and a dad’s a dad.”
     “Everything’s gonna be okay, Sally.
     “Yeah,” I said. Sometimes I was full of halfhearted yeahs.

As I was walking home, I pictured the hate on Enrique Infante’s face. I could still hear faggot ringing in my ears.
     My dad. My dad was not that word.
     He would never be that word. Not ever.
     Then there was a loud clap of thunder—​and the rain came pouring down.
     I couldn’t see anything in front of me as the storm surrounded me. I kept walking, my head down.
     I just kept walking.
     I felt the heaviness of my rain-soaked clothes. And for the first time in my life, I felt alone.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous 7 days ago
a beautiful story. a story about love and compassion. sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always heartwarming and uplifting.
Bookyogi 7 months ago
From the same author who wrote Aristotle & Dante, I had high expectations. Benjamin Alice Saenz writes quiet and beautiful stories. It’s funny to say, “quiet,” because there are so many, violent at times, life changing moments, but that is how his writing feels. He paints interesting characters and always has at least one parent relationship that is the gold standard, which is also funny because it is often amidst such horrible adult role models. I didn’t attach to this book quite as much as I did Aristotle & Dante, but appreciate the beauty in his writing non the less.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is heartbreaking and life affirming and just lovely.
Suze-Lavender More than 1 year ago
Sal and his adoptive father have a strong bond. Sal's father is single and it's always been just the two of them. Their life has been stable and peaceful until things suddenly change. Sal loves his lively Mexican family and likes spending time with his best friend Sammy and very good friend Fito. Sal's dad is gay, but doesn't have a boyfriend, so his dad's life has naturally evolved around Sal. They were perfectly at ease together, but lately Sal starts to feel differently. He's angry when someone offends his family and even hits someone when he's being provoked. He's questioning life in general, his origin and the person he is inside. Will he find the answers he seeks? The Inexplicable Logic of my Life is a beautiful heartwarming story. I love stories about family in many different forms and this is definitely a good one. Sal and his father have a gorgeous special bond. I absolutely loved that aspect of the story, nothing can break them apart and Sal’s father will do anything for his son. Sal is lucky when it comes to the people who love him, as he also has two incredible friendships. Sammy is fierce and tough, she can stand her ground, but she's vulnerable at the same time. I liked the way they communicate, the honest way they talk to each other and the way they support one another no matter what. Fito comes from a broken home, his life is pretty terrible, but because of Sal he has somewhere to go and people to help him. Sal will never let a loved one down. The connections between the characters are making this book incredibly special. In The Inexplicable Logic of My Life nobody has to do everything on their own, the main characters are figuring things out together. That doesn’t mean they share everything straight away, their support also means waiting until someone’s ready. The story is all about friendship, loyalty, love and family. Being there for one another is important and there’s always a solution when you’re surrounded by people who love you unconditionally, which is such a gorgeous strong message. Benjamin Alire Sáenz has written a brilliant book about kindness, caring for each other, standing up for one another and love in many forms. The main characters in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life aren’t flawless, it’s their faults that are making them interesting. There's plenty of work to be done that should allow them to grow as a person, but also as a group, which is something else I really loved about this book. I highly recommend The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, it's a wonderful mesmerizing and thought-provoking story.
xokristim More than 1 year ago
This book was about love, loss, and everything in between. Benjamin Aire Sáenz has this way of telling the most beautiful stories. I was so invested in this story and it’s characters that I cried too many times too count while reading this book. The character development was unbelievable. I loved each and every one of the relationships talked about throughout the books. I love how each character needs help, but eventually finds themselves. The father/son relationship and grandmother/grandson relationships were wonderful to read about, the good and the bad. The friendships throughout the book were so real and raw, it made me wish to have more people like this in my life. All of the relationships made my heart smile. Overall this book was outstanding. It was emotional for sure, but in all the right ways. I was not disappointed in the least with this book. Benjamin continues to be on my lists of amazing authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not just for young adults, this novel is a brilliant read. ~*~LEB~*~
BookWorm221 More than 1 year ago
It’s hard to put into words all of the things that this book made me feel but I’m going to give it a try. Sal has an adoptive gay father who belongs to a wonderful Mexican family, Sal is not Mexican but since he has been with his father from the moment he was born he considers himself one and I love how this wasn’t an issue for Sal, the book is about Sal finding himself and answering questions about himself but the fact that he considers himself Mexican wasn’t an issue, it was just who he is, he did have problem with that unknown part of himself who is parents were and he wonders if maybe some of the feelings and actions that he can’t explain are genetics passed down from them and he also wonders how much these genetics are going to affect him In the future. Sal’s story develops in everyday life events, there isn’t a big plot twist, it’s just Sal dealing with everyday life and finding the answers little by little with the help of his family and friends, and that’s one thing that I really love about Benjamín’s books is that the family is very present in the book and at least in both books by him that I’ve read the family is a positive and supportive family something that sometimes isn’t really a prominent feature on YA books. This book made me laugh and cry and I loved it.
itsraymarie More than 1 year ago
Oh man. Where to even start? Ari and Dante will always have an extra-special place in my heart, and I knew going in that this wouldn't live up to that, so I tried very hard not to hold it up to that level. But this book was still amazing in its own right and I adored it. Pros: there was no romance! I loved that. This is a love story--between family, and between friends. Sal and his friends stayed friends, and I LOVED that. I thought the relationships showcased here were beautiful, and I think we definitely need more stories like that. I was honestly expecting one at any moment, and so was pleasantly surprised. actually present parent figures?! Well, kinda. Sal's father is a huge part of the story, and I loved how present and involved he is not only in Sal's life, but in the lives of his friends Sam and Fito. (The same cannot be said for any other parents in the story, dead or alive.) the story was very character driven and I loved that. Saenz is a master at crafting real and raw characters, and this story was no different. I loved the family that they create for themselves (Sal and Sam and Fito and Vicente and even Marco and Maggie the dog) but also just seeing the normal, healthy friendship between Sal, Sam, and Fito was super refreshing to see. Sal is a white boy adopted into a Mexican family, and I thought it was showcased beautifully. Sal is Mexican because his family is Mexican, end of story. Cons: there plot? I was half expecting something to happen, but it really is just a book about Sal's angst. He's starting to have questions about his birth father, why he's suddenly punching people, and then the grief of his Mima getting sick. But hey, I think being an angsty teenager is perfect understandable. Saenz's writing style isn't my favorite. I don't think I noticed it as much with Ari and Dante because I listened to the audiobook, but his way of writing short and choppy sometimes made me feel like I couldn't completely get into the flow of reading. All in all, this was just a beautiful story about life. It dealt with big issues like love and life and death and grief, in the beautiful, haunting way that Saenz is known for. Can you tell I loved this book (like jeez how many times can you say that word)?
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
“The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” is a book I had mixed feelings about, but in the end I found it well worth the time to read. The plot is meandering, and while that can be a good thing, in this instance I wish about a quarter of the length had been shaved off. The repetitiveness sometimes took me out of the story. The plot itself is a good one about the nature of friendship and family instead of romance. That’s refreshing to find in a young adult book. Extra points for being a diverse book with both lgbtq and Mexican-American characters. The flaws in the length of the story were more than made up for in the absolutely stunning writing. Every chapter contained at least one beautiful sentence. It felt like candy in the brain. The characters, because of the writing style, seemed to jump off of the page and into my life. They will undoubtedly live on inside of my mind, and I’ve already found myself repeating quotes. Overall, I can definitely recommend “The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” to any older young adults and adults who are looking for beauty over a fast-paced plot. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As he did in Aristotle and Dante, Saenz had many "secrets of the universe" in mind for this book: death, family, "nature vs nurture," to name a few. So much is a mystery to Salvador Silva. His adopted father tries to connect his with the mother who died when he was quite young. He do SS himself lashing out violently at kids who insult him. His senior year of high school is halfway over, and he cannot get the motivation to apply to college. As the book unwinds, Salvador's adopted father, and his two friends suffer their own set of losses. It is in suffering that Salvador grows into manhood. While Aristotle and Dante charged the best literary friendship since The Kite Runner, the characters in Inexplicable Logic never quite make it off the page, particularly "Sally," the narrator. Still, Saenz brings to life Latino teens, and he touches on gay issues, in a way that is commendable.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars I was frustrated with the first half of this novel. I felt that it was going nowhere. Sal was pondering his life and his identity, only he was doing internally. If only he’d reached out, I’d felt better but Sal drifted, his voice silent while his mind filled with questions and unknowns. Sal had plenty of opportunities and he had a lot of individuals, of all ages, to help him, yet he kept quiet. Somehow as life starts to get complicated for himself and his friends, Sal’s questions don’t seem to be that important anymore, his mind seems to find the bigger picture. The second half of the novel saved this novel for me as I was tired of Sal’s unending questions and his life’s pondering. Sal finally starts to show some heart, could it have been all the emotions and messages that his friends are sending out? Sal begins by recording his grandma’s voice as he knows her days are numbered, he then starts to open up a bit with his dad, just a few questions but I felt something happening in the relationships with all the characters. Sal seems relieved, he has finally opened up and after telling his friends this breakthrough, it’s as if they all are breathing lighter now. If only the beginning of the novel, they would have had some of this connection, I would have loved it. This was not what I expected from this novel, it carried a terrific cover, a great synopsis but the beginning was a disappointment. I loved the secondary characters in the novel, and the ending made up the novel for me. I loved Benjamin Saenz other novels and I look forward to reading other novels by him. 3.5 stars