No exotic travel locale, no intriguing professional microcosm, no particular historic moment–Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, nonetheless opened my eyes on life as lived by someone whose brain works differently than mine. Marcelo’s father is a man too much like many of us, who thinks that the ‘real world’ is obviously the one he has decided he inhabits. If that world has required of him that he compromise some of his idealism in order to achieve other laudable goals, well, that’s reality.
Because Marcelo functions on the high end of the autism spectrum, he has worked explicitly at understanding some of the odd ways we humans typically interact, rather than simply absorbing these habits and customs. This puts him at a particular advantage for helping readers see things that probably create dissonance in all our lives, even though he might at first think his inability to understand something is just a manifestation of his usual difference.
As a voice for a work of narrative fiction, this one avoids the madcap boisterousness of many teen narrators, even while Marcelo’s measured approach mesmerizes with its originality and its investigative sensibility. For any reader who has felt like his/her classmates or colleagues operate on a different planet, Marcelo offers an example of courage and useful dreaming.