September 23, 2012

Marcelo in the Real World: Guest Review

Najela from Brave New Adventure is back with a Psychtember guest review of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork!

Summary: Marcelo is afflicted with an autism-like condition. He has been going to a special school named Paterson where he works with horses and helps other children with mental “disorders”. His father, Arturo, gives him the option to work at the law firm during the summer and if he succeeds, he stays at Paterson, if he fails, he goes to a public school. Marcelo meets Jasmine, the other mailroom worker, and with her help he discovers what it means to truly be in the real world and to feel compassion for others.

Likes: I loved this book. I actually hugged it when I was done. All of the characters were  well-rounded and I loved Marcelo’s character. The narrative was soft and gentle with a very contemplative nature, I loved being in Marcelo’s head and getting his opinions about the world around him. I enjoyed reading about Marcelo’s journey into the real world and the difficulties he had to overcome in a world where people lower their expectations of childen with special needs. Marcelo was one of the smartest people in the entire law firm and had a good sense of justice. Marcelo’s interest is religion gives the story a very strong moral aspect, without being preachy. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Marcelo stands up to his father and realizes that he can do even more than he originally thought possible. It's rewarding to see a characters reach their full potential and realize they have talents and passions to offer the world.

Psychological Aspect: There is a deep psychologial component concerning children with special needs that not only affects the child, but the whole family as well. Marcelo's family often struggle with doing what's right or doing what's practical. Is it right to ask a child to do something they might not be ready for? Is it practical or right to push him? When it comes to children with special needs, sometimes it's easier for caretakers to do the tasks that make life easier on themselves rather than their children. In this case, Marcelo's parents had to determine what was best for their son, even if it was something that was hard for him in the beginnings.  

Writing Tip: There is a severe lack of representation in YA novels about children with special needs. I understand, it's had to write from the perspective of some with a disability, but the easy thing to remember is that a character should not be defined by their disability. Do your research and choose a few symptoms for your character to have, then write them as you would write any other character. Make their voice engaging and fresh, but don't make the disability a character flaw. A character with autism could be stubborn whether they had autism or not, that's just a part of his character.

Another Book To Read:
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Najela is a graduate from UC Riverside with a dual degree in Psychology and Creative Writing and finally making the most of both degrees. She works with kids and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Exceptional Student Education. She is also working on several writing projects including a Beauty and the Beast retelling webcomic coming in late October 2012. You can follow her at her website or her tumblr.

I'm glad to hear you loved this one so much, Najela!


  1. I totally agree and loved this book, too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I loved the exact same things about this book. I'm growing tired of the disability being a character flaw. It shouldn't marginalize the character, be a plot device, or even just put in to give the book an "edge".


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