Sunday, December 7, 2008

Story of One Asperger Syndrome Teenager!

Marcelo in the Real World
By Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN: 9780545054744
314 Pages

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork is listed as a young adult novel. It may contain the story of a teenager; however, I personally would place it for reading by older individuals as well. For those who have found the Rain Man or Forrest Gump of special interest, this book may well be a must-read for you.

Marcelo is just 17 when his father decides that he must be introduced to the “real world.” He wants him to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer, after which he would like him to finish 12th grade at the local high school. Marcelo, on the other hand, has been looking forward to continuing his work with the horses at Paterson. He has attended Paterson his entire life, thanks to the wealth of his family. He does not wish to make this change for his last year. Unfortunately, his mother is willing to support his father at this time.

Marcelo, who has the habit of speaking of himself in the third person, has attempted to negotiate a little and, at the end of the summer, he will be able to choose which school he wants to attend. In the meantime, he has already been scheduled to begin work! His father explains that he needs to be able to interact with people and to learn about the rules in the real world. Considering Marcelo’s significant interest and knowledge in religion and religious texts, he uses it to highlight that, “in the real world” people do not normally quote a Bible verse, together with its location in the Bible, as part of daily conversation. However, it is his religious knowledge that plays a big part in how he begins to live in the world into which he was thrown!

The duties in the firm’s mailroom are broader than most would think. It includes printing and binding and delivery services, among other things. Jasmine is his boss, and she is quite free to show her being upset that she was forced to have Marcelo work for her rather than the individual she had already hired. However, little by little a relationship develops and Jasmine is willing to learn and adjust to Marcelo’s limitations, the primary one being that his actions are slower since he must mentally go through the process and work to be perfect on each activity. In fact, Jasmine must very well be the very first friend Marcelo has ever grown to care about...

Ironically, it is what Marcelo learns there at the firm that is life-changing for his entire family. For he learns about the bad things that people sometimes do! And he is forced to realize that people lie and will hurt people in order to have their own way—or worse yet, to make money, above all else. And these lessons are learned through actions of those working in the firm, including his own father! In fact, I was left with one feeling—who learned the most about living in the real world—Marcelo or Arturo, his father?

For those of us who personally know someone with autism and, in particular, Asperger’s syndrome, I want to add a caveat that Marcelo is an individual and his life cannot be considered as one lived by all those with Asperger’s and/or other levels of autism. The author has the character Marcelo using third person to talk about himself. While this may not have actually occurred, this method provides the reader to see and understand much about the thinking processes Marcelo goes through.

Readers may very well experience strong feelings about what happens to Marcelo. I know I did. The author has created a book that easily elicits thoughts of protectiveness, yet it is we, who come to know Marcelo that are faced with our own worlds of reality and how we each choose to face the hate, lies and corruption out there in “the real world.”

G. A. Bixler
For Amazon Vine