Marcelo in the Real World – Francisco Stork

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My oldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome and so I am always on the look out for books that talk about the condition. I heard a few people raving about this book and so I bought a copy straight away.

Marcelo in the Real World is about a seventeen-year-old boy called Marcelo who has an Asperger’s-like condition. Marcelo has spent his life in a special school surrounded by people who understand his problems. His Dad decides that it is time for Marcelo to enter the ‘real world’, to break out of his protective shell and deal with every day life; so he gets him a summer job in the mail room of his law firm. We see how Marcelo copes with his difficult new surroundings and learns to make real desicions for the first time in his life.

Marcelo in the Real World is a really sweet book. It is light, easy to read and heart warming. I don’t know much about teenagers with Asperger’s, but it appeared that the book had been very well researched. It gave a detailed insight into his thought processes and it helped me to see the world from the eyes of someone with the condition.

If I stop to take in every word I see, I will never get to the courthouse where I go almost every day to file documents.
It is the same with sounds. It seems that most of my brain needs to be turned off in order to function effectively. Hundreds of people have no problem assimilating different sounds. They walk and talk on cell phones. They dodge cars while having conversations.

Marcelo has a special interest in God and so there were a number of religious discussions, mainly relating to sin, relationships and sex. I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of religious discussions, but they did help to illustrate Marcelo’s innocence and so I could tolerate them in small doses!

The story was quite simple and to be honest I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it if I hadn’t had a special interest in the subject matter. I prefer my books to be a bit darker and not so sentimental.

This book gives a fantastic insight into the problems faced by people who suffer from Asperger’s and so I am encouraging all my friends and family to read it. I would love everyone to read it, just so they understand my son and others like him slightly better, but I suspect that many people will find it too sweet and cheesy for their liking.

I like these books about autistic children and young adults because they take some of our basic assumptions about the world and how it works and shake them upside down. Semi Colon Blog

I loved that this is a complex novel and a beautiful one. Becky’s Book Reviews

I couldn’t put it down. Jenny’s Books

Marcelo was filled to bursting with emotion and feeling and discovery. Regular Rumination

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  1. diane says:

    I have the audio version on my iPod; glad u liked it Jackie.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I look forward to finding out what the audio version is like. I’m not sure it will work on audio, but I hope that you enjoy it.

  2. Jenny says:

    I know what you mean about the sweetness – I liked the book for how well-written it was, and the fact that Marcelo’s problem resisted classification, but it was a lot of sweetness. It wouldn’t have been a bad thing to make some of the characters more complex – give them a bit of an edge.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I agree that it would have been nice to see the characters with a bit more complexity – some were very sterotypical and flat. I think it serves its YA target audience very well, but mosts might find it a bit disappointing.

  3. Jessica says:

    I’ll think I will give this one a miss. My brother also has Aspergers (hes 23 now) so I am more interested in this type of book. Its great that there is so much more awareness abut this condition and its largely due to books like this, whenever I said Aspergers 15 years ago no one knew what that was so I used to just say my brother had Autisum as it was easier than trying to explain. My only slight criticism (and Im not blaming authors) is that Aspergers differ quite alot which isn’t really highlighted in these books. I have had people say to me ‘oh he must be good at maths/musical instruments etc.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, I am impressed by the increasing awareness of Aspergers, but it does seem to be only certain symptoms that people are aware of. I’m guilty myself – when I was first told that my son had Aspergers I didn’t believe them. He had problems with routines and social interactions while I thought Aspergers was all about memory skills and obsessions. Hopefully awareness will grow as time goes on.

    2. Lu says:

      I think this book does that well – his “condition” is never really name. They don’t tack the title Aspergers onto it and pretend that everyone who has Aspergers reacts or acts the same way. In that way, I think you might enjoy this book.

  4. Stujallen says:

    This sounds like a good book ,Having worked with people with aspergers and on the atistic spectrum for last 20 plus years ,books on it also appeal to me jackie ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, If you like books about autism then you’ll hopefully find a few more on my blog in the future :-)

  5. Sandy says:

    It seems like there is more and more fiction out there dealing with a protagonist with Asperger’s. Jodi Piccoult has a new one out as well. I give you loads of credit for actively taking an interest in getting all the perspectives to better understand your son. Because two of my friends have children with Asperger-like symptoms, it hits close home to me as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, There do seem to be a lot of Aspergers books at the moment. I’m not sure if this is because there has been a big increase in them, or because I’m just looking for them now.

      I had noticed that Jodi Picoult’s new book also has an Asperger’s lead, but I’m not sure I’m ready to read about a child being accused of a crime because they look guilty – one day :-)

      1. Sandy says:

        I know, my friend Marianne said she would not be able to read something like that!

  6. I loved this book. I love the way Stork writes, and the essential goodness of his characters. I have seen criticism that Marcelo didn’t seem *really* to have Aspergers, but as Jessica notes, it can vary a lot from person to person.

    1. Jackie says:

      rhapsodyinbooks, I have seen criticism of the realism too. I’m not an expert, but it came across as real to me. I have seen people saying that those with Aspergers don’t understand metaphors or anything that isn’t said literally and that is true, but most can learn these sayings. By the age of 17 most Aspies would have memorised many of our odd expressions :-) Essential goodness is one of the best things about a person with Aspergers. I wish everyone was as honest as they are!

  7. I really, really liked this book. Marcelo came across as so authentic to me, yes it was really sweet but I think it was the perfect book for what I was looking for at the time. It warmed my heart and was written so very well. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Heather, I don’t normaly read these heartwarming books, but it was a nice change from the death and destruction I normally subject myself too – perhaps I should read a few more!

  8. Andi says:

    Lovely review. I’ve wanted to read this one for a while now, and all the much more now!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I hope that you enjoy it – I look forward to seeing what you think of it.

  9. I bought this and read it when it first came out a few months ago (got a review coming somewhere down the road) and I really liked it. I was especially struck by Marcello’s father and his refusal to accept his son’s “world.” I thought the book was a real eye-opener, although I would hope that most people understand that there is such a spectrum that no two Asperger’s people are quite alike, so it would be a mistake for them to think that Marcello = Asperger’s, if that makes sense.

    1. Jackie says:

      Michele, I didn’t get the impression that Marcelo’s father didn’t accept his world. I thought he just wanted to help him deal with normal life and in the end forcing Marcelo to work outside his protected environment really helped him. I look forward to seeing your review at some point.

      1. One of the things I liked about this book is that it is open to so many interpretations. I just wanted to shake Marcelo’s father at different points!

  10. Lu says:

    Yay Marcelo in the Real World! I loved this book so much. Thank you for quoting my review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lu, It is really nice to see that so many people are reading and enjoying this book :-)

  11. You might like to read JPod by Douglas Coupland because it talks about how many people in the tech industry are on the spectrum for autism. Of course, those are very high-functioning people with autism, but who else could stand to look at lines and lines of code?

    I’ve worked with a few people with autism when I used to work at a hospital. Some worked out well and some didn’t. But they had job coaches who helped them.

    1. Jackie says:

      J.T. Oldfield, Thank you for the recommendation! I loved Generation A and so have been planning to read another Coupland book. I didn’t realise that JPod mentioned autism. I have recently read a few articles about how tech companies are hiring lots of people with Aspergers as they are much faster/accurate at spotting errors in code. I also read that a lot of people in the IT industry are probably undiagnosed/borderline autistic anyway – it is what makes them so good at their job :-)

  12. Kathleen says:

    My friends’ son has Aspergers so I will definitely recommend this one to her.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I hope your friend enjoys it :-)

  13. I think I’ve already alluded to this elsewhere, Jackie, but my son has Aspergers and reading about the condition both in non fiction and fiction has helped me greatly in trying to understand his world which at times seems like a much nicer place than the real world as it’s a place where no one lies – he can be brutally honest at times!

    I like the sound of this one, must add it to TBR pile. House Rules was a great read (you have to suspend reality quite a bit at times!). Another good fiction re ASD is Siobhan O’ Dowd’s London Eye Mystery and in the non fiction area, Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson, a teen Aspie. I’m sure there are others that I’ve forgotten about. And yes it does help to educate family and friends too as they do have odd preconceived ideas about folk on the autistic spectrum expecting everyone to be good at Maths like Rain Man…..

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I don’t think I realised that your son had Aspergers. It will be good to compare notes with you at some point. I find the lying thing fascinating. I read somewhere that it is really important to teach your Aspie child to lie. It is so hard for them to cope in an adult world full of liers and exagerators and so it is important to teach them the skills as early as possible. It is amazing how often we lie when you think about it!

      Thanks for all the recommendations! I am half way through Luke Jackson’s book and loving it. I’ll have to see how many of the others I can get hold of.

      1. Well I suppose it’s more diplomacy than lying as in “do not tell your Aunty that dress makes her look fat even if it does!” or me for that matter. Yes, we must have a catch up sometime soon – always helps if someone else has an inkling as to what you go through and doesn’t dismiss it as just a phase…

        1. Jackie says:

          Teresa, Yes – agree it is more diplomacy, but also heard a sad case of a woman going to her first job interview and trying to exaggerate for the first time. Poor lady went way over the top and instead of just highlighting her good points she went too far and just sounded silly.

  14. Jenners says:

    I imagine that finding anything that gives you a glimpse into the mind of your child would be so invaluable. I’ve heard that Jodi Picoult’s new book “House Rules” does a good job of dealing with autism and Asperger’s as well. I just started it, but a blogging buddy who has a son with Asperger’s gave it two thumbs up. Here is a link to what she thought … and I think her opinion would count quite a bit because she lives with the same thing you do.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Thanks for sharing the link. It is good to know that an Asperger’s mother enjoyed it. Perhaps I will be tempted to seek it out now. I look forward to your review.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    I am familiar with Asperger’s, but haven’t read a fiction story yet. This one looks like a good place to start.

    1. Jackie says:

      stacybuckeye, I haven’t read many fictional Aspergers books yet, but I would say this is a good place to start. It is very easy to read and so heartwarming – enjoy!

  16. cbjames says:

    I think I should put this book back on my TBR list. Not because I’ll like it, I think my reading taste is probably more in line with yours, but because I think my seventh graders would like it.

    Sounds like it might be right up their alley.

    1. Jackie says:

      cbjames, I think your seventh graders probably would enjoy it. There are frequent mentions of sex, but nothing graphic – just biological. It would be nice to know a whole class was learning about the difficulties faced by those suffering from Aspergers.

  17. Jeanne says:

    Guess I was in the mood for something sweet, as I enjoyed it.


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