2009 YA

Marcelo in the Real World – Francisco Stork

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

1980s Novella Recommended books

When I Was Five I Killed Myself – Howard Buten

When I Was Five I Killed Myself is a fantastic little book! It was first brought to my attention by Scott from Me and My Big Mouth and I’d like to thank him, as I don’t think I’d ever have discovered this little gem without him.

The book has a very interesting history. It was originally published in the US in 1981 under the title Burt, but sadly failed to take off there. It then became hugely popular in France and ended up becoming a classic in the country; it is claimed that 1 in 10 French people have read this book. It is a real shame that When I Was Five I Killed Myself is virtually unknown in the English speaking world, as it is wonderful and deserves to become a classic in all languages.

The book begins with Burt letting us know he is in a Children’s Trust Residence Centre for the terrible thing he did to a girl called Jessica. The centre appears to be a cross between a mental hospital and a children’s home, but it is never made clear exactly what kind of institution it is. The entire book is narrated by 8-year-old Burt, who is clearly troubled and suffering from Asperger’s syndrome (as with the central character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.)  The crime Burt committed is revealed gradually, but we know from the beginning that it was serious enough to leave Jessica in hospital.  

I loved every page of this emotional novella. In many ways the book reminded me of Flowers For Algernon, questioning they way in which we treat those in society who behave differently to everyone else. The child’s point of view was realistic and disturbing. I really empathised with Burt and found his confusion at the outside world insightful and traumatizing.

Dr Nevele shook his head slow, like my dad once did when he had to put our dog to sleep. “Please don’t put me to sleep,” I whispered. I looked at the floor but there weren’t any more buildings on it, just carpet. Dr Nevele shook his head.”Are you talking to me now, Burton?” he said. And I said “I don’t know.” Then I started to cry.

I should mention now that my oldest son is suspected of having Asperger’s Syndrome, so this book had an added depth of meaning for me. I don’t think I have ever found so much emotion in such a short book.

The ending surprised me, but also left me begging for the sequel, which unfortunately doesn’t exist.

I highly recommend you find a copy of this little book.

I’m planning to read Marcelo in the Real World soon. Have you read any other books which contain a character with Asperger’s Syndrome?