I just read MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD and I want so much for you to read it that I'm going to blog about it even though I generally don't write (or even blog) book reviews.
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is about a seventeen year old boy with autism, which is why I hadn't already read it. I'm going to be honest: As the stepmother of a boy with autism, approximately the last thing I want to do in my spare time is read more and more and more about autism.
I have read a lot about autism.
Book after book after book.
I have never ever read a novel starring someone with autism. Never. Pretty much everyone in the entire world*, upon learning that M. has autism, has said to me, "Oh, you HAVE to read THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME!" And I've said, "Uhhhhhh, sure. I will. One day. I mean, I might. I HAVE it! I will. Probably. But, yeah." (Yes, I really am THAT articulate.)
And I've tried to read it several times.
But when you have a child with autism, it is very very very hard to read a book featuring a character with autism and not compare your child to the character. I don't know why this is, but it's true. I don't know why this bothers me, but it does.
(Full disclosure: I actually just wrote and sold a novel featuring a character with autism after, for many years, believing also that I could never WRITE a book featuring a character with autism. MORE NEWS ON THAT SOON.)
Anyway, I picked up MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD and decided that it was time and I'd heard too many good things about it to NOT read it and so I read it and it was so good. I already want to read it again for the first time. It was just... so so so so so so so good. (Hey, this sounds like a review now! Probably the publisher will want to use that on the cover in the next print run: "It is so so so so so so so good." - Karen Rivers)
I am floored and awed and overwhelmed and thrilled by how good it was.
Marcelo, for one thing, is nothing like M. and that is true of all people with autism, the spectrum is so enormous that no two people are the same or have the same manifestations of the syndrome. So what I was thinking was going to happen, with some kind of mental compare/contrast graph, did not happen. At all.
Marcelo is an amazing, astonishing character. He is a perfect character. He is not a perfect PERSON, but he is such an intact and specific character that he is going to become one of those characters in my memory who lives on, much like real people whose paths have crossed mine. I loved Marcelo.
But what I loved most about this book was the aspect of it that I didn't see coming, that I didn't know would be buried inside: This book profoundly changed the way I view God and spirituality and religion. I have been feeling conflicted about religion lately, and not going into too much detail that probably doesn't belong on the internetz, I will say this is because I'm sending my kids to Catholic school (even though I'm not Catholic) and the questions that The Bun brings home to me are making me question my choice and my own beliefs. There is a passage in this book where Rabbi Hersch is speaking and she says, "Trust the sense you have that you are traveling the right direction because, when it comes down to it, that and the ability to tell the difference between a dried-up fig and a pomegranate is all you have."
Out of context that might not mean anything to you, but it does to me.
I feel changed after reading MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. You will, too. It may be marketed as YA, but this is a book for everyone.
Now go! Read it! I hope you love it as much as I did.
*exaggeration for dramatic effect