Reviewed December 14, 2009.
Random House, 2009. 10 hours, 8 minutes on 8 compact discs.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2009: #1 Other Teen Fiction
Marcelo Sandoval is looking forward to the summer before his senior year of high school. He's going to be in charge of the ponies at Patterson, the special education school he's gone to all his life. Marcelo has something similar to Asperger's Syndrome. He sees the world differently than most people, and hears music in his head that no one else can hear.
Marcelo's father has other ideas for him. He wants Marcelo to get a taste of "the real world," and to learn to cope. His father is a partner in a law firm, and he wants Marcelo to work there for the summer. If he can successfully complete the assigned tasks, Marcelo can go back to Patterson, but otherwise his father wants Marcelo to go to the public high school.
The law firm has many challenges for Marcelo. The girl in charge of the mailroom, where he is assigned, had hoped for a different assistant for the summer. The other partner's son is home from law school, and he has plans for how Marcelo can be useful to him. Then Marcelo comes up against some ethical questions and a picture that haunts him. Why does he feel so compelled by the picture? And what should he do about it?
Marcelo in the Real World is a powerful and gripping story. Listening to the audiobook, I felt like Marcelo was talking to me, telling his story in a way that made perfect sense. He explains his way of looking at the world thoroughly, and the listener gets quickly caught up in his viewpoint, wondering, along with Marcelo, what he should do next and how the people around him will react, and what it all means.
Marcelo has a "special interest" in religion, and the book tackles some major spiritual questions, as well as ethical ones. All in the context of the lives of people you come to care about. A truly wonderful book.