I hadn’t heard of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork until I read a review of it by Amanda from the Zen Leaf. In the comments, Amanda mentioned that she thought Marcelo would be interesting in audio form, if it was done well. I decided to give it a shot.

About the Book:

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (cover)Marcelo has just finished his junior year of high school when the novel opens. He has a cognitive condition that’s something like, but not exactly, Asperger’s Syndrome, and he has attended a special school his whole life. The school owns therapeutic horses, and Marcelo’s summer job is to help care for them.

Then Marcelo’s father, a prominent lawyer who thinks Marcelo can do better, proposes an agreement. Marcelo will work in the mail room at his father’s law firm for the summer. If he succeeds in this “real world” environment, Marcelo can spend his senior year at the school he’s always attended. If not, he will be mainstreamed at the local high school. The latter is something Marcelo most definitely does not want.

Marcelo reluctantly settles into life at the law firm. He tackles each assignment with the aim of succeeding so as not to be mainstreamed for his senior year. Marcelo does end up learning a lot; more, in fact, than his father might have anticipated or desired.

My Thoughts:

Marcelo in the Real World was a very interesting novel. Honestly, I thought it was written for adults. Having never seen the book, I didn’t realize it’s intended to be YA until I saw it listed somewhere as “grade 8 and up.” The book certainly contains plenty to keep an adult engaged.

I either loved or hated every character in this book. I loved Marcelo, his mother, his sister, and Jasmine; I hated Marcelo’s father, Wendell, and most of the rest of the law firm staff. And yet most of them were more rounded than clear-cut good and evil. They all seemed very real, and I could understand their motivations and inclinations, even if I didn’t agree with them. (Except for Wendell, who is a slimy, evil young man, period.) For instance, Marcelo’s father: I wasn’t sure he’d made the right decision forcing his son into the “real world,” but I could see that he really did think it was in Marcelo’s best interest. And vice versa, the “good” characters all had their flaws.

The novel was both tough and rewarding. It was hard to watch Marcelo come up against the “real world,” trying to navigate situations I would’ve hated to be in myself. It was disheartening to witness some of the other characters’ reactions to Marcelo, often treating him like an idiot who could be easily manipulated. But it was also rewarding to see Marcelo work through the things he didn’t understand and, ultimately, do what he needed to do.

Marcelo in the Real World is definitely a book that makes you think. I felt very much in Marcelo’s shoes as he navigated the world of the law firm. It’s taken me a while to write a review because I’ve been pondering what I wanted to say. I don’t find it to be an easy book to write about.

As for the audio, I really liked reader Lincoln Hoppe’s interpretation of Marcelo. My one complaint was that his pace was sluggish, enough so that I listened to the second half of the book double speed and had no problems adjusting. This is one of those books I think I would like better as an audiobook, were I to read the novel and compare. I always like first person narration on audio because it feels like the character is speaking to me. But listening to Marcelo’s narration went a step further, making me feel like I was actually inside his head. He talks through a lot of his thoughts in a very logical way, which makes them easy to follow (not at all like stream of consciousness) while simultaneously giving insight into Marcelo’s unique thought process. You see the world through his eyes while also applying your own “real world” knowledge to situations that are new to Marcelo.

If you like novels with interesting narrators or that give you plenty of food for thought, I think you’d be happy with Marcelo in the Real World. I’m certainly happy I read it and was enthralled by the story as it unfolded, even if my thoughts here come across as only lukewarm!

Your Turn!

If you’ve read Marcelo in the Real World, what did you think? Is there another book with a unique narrator that you enjoyed?

Join the Conversation


  1. This sounds really interesting. I read The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nightime which is fantastic, narrated by a boy with Autism and is just so funny but with lots of heart too.

    1. I read that one a while back! Both books did an excellent job of getting into the main characters’ heads, I thought. Marcelo definitely functions at a much higher level than Christopher (was that his name?) does, though I didn’t think that made him any less interesting.

  2. I’m glad you ended up enjoying the book, and found a way to get past that sluggish pace! I found the book really hard to review, too. Actually I’m not sure I can remember exactly what I finally decided to talk about…

    1. It was an Amanda book through and through…read about on the Zen Leaf and listened to with your double-speed technique 🙂 I went back and reread your review when I looked it up to link here. It’s a tough book to review, at least for me, because I didn’t feel like it really lets you come down definitively anywhere.

    1. I agree, this book would make a really interesting movie. It’s pretty well set to be one just as it is!

    1. I hadn’t heard of it until a few months ago, but I’m glad I picked it up. Definitely worth the read!

  3. Oh, this does sound rather interesting! It’s rare for me to have such strong reactions to all the characters in a book, but it sounds like this author was really deft in character creations. I am really very intrigued both by this book and by this review and think it’s one that I am going to add to my list. Thanks for the very perceptive and well-rounded review. It was much appreciated!

    1. Stork’s characters were amazingly real, I thought. Stereotypical in that there was the nasty office secretary, the spoiled rich brat, the accepting mother, the not-so-accepting father; yet none of them felt like stereotypes because they were so very well fleshed out. I felt like I knew each one of them. You are quite welcome — I hope you enjoy the book, whenever it comes up in your reading!

  4. I’ve been hearing about this book for about a year now but still haven’t read it. I need to put it on the list for 2011 and MAKE SURE it gets read.

    And I can’t imagine how slow the narration was if you could listen to it a double speed and keep up.

    And I don’t think you came across as lukewarm … more like you had a lot to ponder and had some strong feelings about it.

    1. How did I miss it for so long?? I don’t think it’d take you long to read, and it’s a good one. I usually don’t get too bored with leisurely narration, but this one was slo-o-ow. But, the narrator was so good that I didn’t want to switch to print. Double speed worked like a charm. Your assessment of my feelings toward the book are correct; I’m glad they didn’t come across as lukewarm!

  5. Last week I had lunch with several librarians and when the subject of new must-read YA fiction came up the librarian for the YA section mentioned this book. Always interesting when a book surfaces in several independent sources nearly simultaneously! I’ll have to check this one out. Thanks for the review.

    1. How funny that the book came up twice! I guess that means you’ll have to read it 🙂 I think you’d enjoy it, and it’d be a good break from nonfiction.

  6. I really enjoyed tis book, too! It must have been excellent as an audio. Just finished an audio today that was read a little too slowly – wish I’d thought to double the speed. Next time I’ll know…

    1. I have Amanda (Zen Leaf) to thank for the double speed idea. I wish there was a 1.5x speed sometimes, but at least I can do something about the dreadfully slow narrations!

  7. I LOVED this book! But, I, too, thought that it was more of an adult read than a YA selection. I think that the target audience is sometimes skewed by the age of the main character. Just because a protagonist is a teen does not make the book a YA read. This was a beautiful, rich book with lots of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. I agree with you about the age of the main character. The same thing happened with The Book Thief, which is totally a teen/adult book. Adults seem put off by younger narrators sometimes, it seems, so maybe authors who write about younger characters just decide to market their books as YA? “Beautiful” and “rich” are wonderful adjectives for this book!

    1. It was both of those things! I certainly never had trouble with my attention wandering, and I have a feeling I may never be done sorting out my thoughts pertaining to it. It might be an interesting one to revisit, too, just to see if my thoughts about it change down the line.

  8. I just finished reading the book and I was looking for someone else who told me that like it and ejoy it as I did. Im spanish speaker, so my english might not be so well, thats why I think the book  was for YA, it results pretty easy to me to understand the book without using a dictionary, thats my opinion, but thank you anyway for your review.

  9. aleeorta YA makes good reading in a foreign language, doesn’t it? I’m glad you enjoyed this book. I thought it was really good. Thank you for commenting!

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