Marcelo Sandoval is a 17-year-old Hispanic with an Asperger-like syndrome. While Marcelo can attend a regular public school, Marcelo has attended Paterson his whole life. Paterson provides a safe and friendly environment for its student. Now, Arturo, Marcelo’s father, wants Marcelo to experience the real world. Marcelo will work in the mailroom of Arturo’s law firm. If Marcelo does a great job, he can have a choice of Paterson or the public high school. If not, Marcelo will have to attend the public high school. At the law firm, Marcelo meets Jasmine, his young female coworker, and Wendell, Arturo’s partner’s son. One day, Marcelo finds a photo of a girl with half her face scarred. This photo helps Marcelo find out what the real world is all about.
Marcelo in the Real World is a touching read. My favorite thing about the novel was how Stork was able to create such a distinct character. Marcelo truly has the heart of a child. Most characters just shrug off Marcelo as “retarded” or something similar, but Jasmine takes time to see who Marcelo really is. Both of them love music. Marcelo has always been able to hear music inside his head, which he calls internal music. Besides music, Marcelo is fascinated with religion. There is just so much about Marcelo that makes him different from any other character out there. The other characters, such as Wendell and Arturo also have distinct voices.
The plot was as good as the characterizations. Marcelo in the Real World delved into many different plotlines. These plotlines flowed together nicely, so it never seemed like there was too much happening. The overlapping theme between all the plotlines is what is right and wrong. Throughout the novel, Marcelo faces situations where he will have to make decisions he may not want to make. However, Marcelo does because he knows it is the right thing to do.
If you’re in the mood for something slower-paced or want to read about someone with an Asperger-like syndrome, then read Marcelo in the Real World. Also, I think anyone looking for some multiculturalism in YA books will also want to read this. It’s nice to have a book with a Hispanic protagonist without the book actually being about being Hispanic (that’s a mouthful). Having said that, Marcelo in the Real World does deal with a Hispanic issue within the justice system. I know that’s kind of vague, but it’s hard to say much else without giving plot away.