Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork
Reviewed by Julia, age 14, New York
Take a first person narration set in the present day, an autistic teenager, and a brutal law firm quick to abolish the weak. The result is Francisco X. Stork's brilliant novel, Marcelo in the Real World.
Judging from the cover and strategically written description by the online Nook Store, I expected to immerse myself in the fictional mind of seventeen year old Marcelo Sandoval as he navigates a law firm and finds first love. (Why else would the front cover display two figures holding hands in the starry night?) While the main plot was Marcelo's social progression in a summer job at his father's law firm, Stork embellishes the novel with a mystery Marcelo seeks to solve. This requires him to choose between following his father's instruction and returning to the school of his choice or discovering something only he could learn.
The cast of characters includes Marcelo's parents and sister, a rabbi, and a stone faced assistant who guides Marcelo through his day to day assignments. Since Marcelo is developed so thoroughly in the story many of the characters are not seen closely. The minimal development can be observed in many ways.
Francisco X. Stork was surrounded by people with mental complications his entire life and it shows through his comfortable storytelling. Marcelo encounters daunting city streets and an arrogant young man who attempts to use him to lure a hookup. His character is believable and relatable, and his struggles are thought provoking. Religion, poverty, and addiction are amongst other themes touched, but it is the reader who is left to make an informed decision regarding them.
I give Marcelo in the Real World a solid four stars (of a possible five).