Marcelo is a seventeen-year-old who hears music in his head as a result of mild autism. His dad, Arturo, is a lawyer. Despite Marcelo’s plans to work at Paterson, the special school he attends, and help with the stables, his father pressures him to spend the summer at his law firm in order to experience the “real world.” The deal is that after spending the summer in the law firm, Marcelo can spend his senior year at his special school or he can choose to go to the regular high school. Arturo is betting Marcelo will want to go to the regular high school after seeing all that the world has to offer.
Marcelo understands that his parents want him to be more self-sufficient, but he is very concerned about what the “real world” involves. To him it means engaging in small talk with other people, refraining from talking about his special interests, shaking hands and looking people in the eye, doing things that have not been scheduled in advance.
The book shows Marcelo overcoming the challenges of the summer job, his friendships with Jasmine, his coworker in the mail room, and Wendell, the obnoxious, privileged son of another lawyer in his dad’s firm. Most interestingly, though, it addresses how Marcelo responds when he realizes the law firm is protecting a shady business that has been sued due to a faulty product.
I also really enjoyed the discussions Marcelo had with his rabbi friend about various aspects of religion. Lots of food for thought, especially as Marcelo struggles with doing the right thing once he uncovers information about his dad’s law firm. I loved how the ending really opened my eyes to what it meant for Marcelo to be a part of the “real world.”
I would recommend this book for a discussion group. There is a lot here to consider and talk about.
My colleague Nancy recommended I listen to the audiobook. Hearing Marcelo’s voice as he talks about himself in the third person really brought his character to life for me.
Check the WRL catalog for Marcelo in the Real World
Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Marcelo in the Real World