I am fascinated by fiction for young people where the main character is a person on the Autism Spectrum. I couldn’t wait to read Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo In The Real World. Marcelo goes to a school for special needs children. He loves it. He feels safe there. His father, Arturo, wants him to spend his senior year at a public high school. He makes a deal with Marcelo. Marcelo must work at his law firm for the summer to be exposed to what he calls “the real world.” If Marcelo does well at the law firm, he will get to go back to finish high school at the school of his choice. At the law firm Marcelo becomes friends with Jasmine, the girl who runs the mail room. Arturo would rather Marcelo become friends with Wendell, the snobby son of his law partner. When Marcelo comes across a photo of a girl who was hurt by a client of his father’s, he must decide whether to do what is right, knowing that it will get him in big trouble. Wendell also wants Marcelo to put Jasmine in a compromising position for him. Saying no might mean Marcelo won’t get what he wants.
Reading how Marcelo views the world is fascinating. Many children on the spectrum have a particular interest that occupies much of their thoughts. For Marcelo, it is religion. He has wonderful conversations with the Rabbi which I really enjoyed reading. I loved how slowly people began to see the beauty of the way Marcelo’s mind worked. I will say this… what jerky parent would consider changing their child’s school right before the senior year of high school? His friendship with Jasmine is beautiful. The story is interesting and engaging and I hope tons of people read this book!
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Talk about how Marcelo views friendships. Wendell, Jasmine and the Rabbi.
Talk about Asperger’s Syndrome. How much do teens know about Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Jasmine and Marcelo talk about the simpler life in the country… the quiet. How do you see it. Is it better or would Jasmine just be hiding? Is Marcelo hiding at Paterson?
Marcelo and the Rabbi discuss urges and urgency. How does that impact your own lives?
Would you do what Marcelo did, even knowing he would hurt his father’s law practice?
Would you want to live in a tree house?