The What: Marcelo Sandoval is on the Asperger’s spectrum. He has gone to a special-needs school, Paterson, for his whole life. In the summer before his senior year, his father Arturo insists that he enter “the real world”: Marcelo must work in his father’s law office for the summer. If he succeeds in navigating its challenges, he will be allowed to choose where he will finish his high school career. If he fails, his father will force him to attend public school so that he can learn to function in the outside world. Marcelo goes into the law office intimidated and unsure of how to interpret people, but little by little, he learns about them and finds a mystery whose answers will change his world forever.
The Good: Stork did a beautiful, masterful job of creating Marcelo’s voice. While clearly neuro-atypical, Marcelo is a brilliant narrator who is easy to care about. His use of the third person, attention to detail, and “internal music” make him unique and bring his world into life. As wonderful as Marcelo is, the book is not only about him. It grapples with great questions: what is good? What is evil? To what should we give our loyalty? How do we decide what to do when every path in front of us stands to cause harm? Without bonking the readers over the head, Stork engages them with important issues, and resolves them without pat or easy-way-out answers.
The Meh: Story readers won’t fall in love with this book. It’s shamelessly for people who read for characters and ideas, so if a brisk plotline floats your reading boat, chart a course for elsewhere.
Hand It To: NP’s character and language readers, teens looking to understand neuro-atypical friends or siblings.