This book is like a chameleon. Just when you think it's about one thing, it changes its colors and becomes another beast altogether. The narrator is Marcelo, a seventeen-year-old who is on the high functioning end of an autism-like spectrum. He has spent his school years in the safe environment of Paterson, a school for students like him. He is comfortable there, working with in the stable there during his summers. Marcelo's father, a high-powered lawyer, has decided that it is time Marcelo experience "the real world" and puts him to work in his law firm's mail room. The mail room is run by Jasmine, who is non too pleased to be landed with the job of babysitting the bosses son. Jasmine turns out to be like Marcelo in many ways and their friendship quietly grows. Marcelo, Jasmine and I could quite happily have spent the rest of the summer there, but Stork has other plans for Marcelo that challenge his sense of duty to his father, his need for friendship, and his relationship with Jasmine. Just like the "real world", the decisions Marcelo must make are clouded in shades of gray. In the end, things work out for Marcelo - almost too neatly. Stork's real world is a forgiving one, and all loose ends are tied in neat bows by the end of the last chapter. As a human I am glad because I love Marcelo and want only happiness for him. However, as a reader, I expected a little more ambiguity. Great books leave you with a sense of longing - with nagging questions and doubts. Without this Marcelo and the Real World stops just short of being great.
More information about Fransisco X. Stork and his other titles can be found here.