Friday, December 11, 2009


There is so much research going on in the medical and educational fields regarding autism, I guess it was only a matter of time before subjects like the autism spectrum and conditions like Asperger's syndrome started to creep into the plots of YA fiction. Actually, it is an excellent way to introduce the subject in a real world setting. Characters like Stork's Marcelo are often misunderstood and taunted by their peers. Reading about characters with autism and learning how they think and feel, can raise awareness and a better understanding of them as everyday people.

Marcelo is now seventeen. He is very intelligent and would most likely be described by professionals as high functioning. Growing up in a caring family and attending a special school has enabled him to develop his talents and cope with life's challenges. Marcelo's father has always entertained the desire for Marcelo to attend regular public school, however, his son is hesitant to leave the safe environment of Paterson, a school for students with special needs.

As an attorney in a prestigious law firm, Marcelo's father issues a summer challenge. He wants his son to work in the firm's mailroom as a way to learn to deal with what he calls the "real" world. If Marcelo is successful in handling the requirements of the job, he will be able to choose between return to his beloved Paterson or going to the local public high school.

He is more than capable of handle the work required with the mailroom job, but the social interaction and people skills prove challenging for Marcelo. Everyone in the law firm is aware of his possible limitations which makes him nervous and concerned that he will fail. His immediate supervisor in the mailroom is a beautiful, young woman named Jasmine. Since a friend of hers was passed over for the job, she is not pleased with Marcelo's presence as a co-worker, but his ability to handle most tasks and his quiet working style win her over.

Marcelo's experience on the job allows him to interact with a wide variety of people and introduces him to both the ethical and unethical aspects of the working world. He sees the sleazy side of legal proceedings and even learns that the father he has so long admired is not the perfect lawyer or even the perfect man.

Author Francisco X. Stork does an excellent job of illustrating the workings of the autistic mind. Readers will be able to see and feel the wide range of emotions Marcelo experiences as he ventures into his father's world. The story provides a better understanding of this often discussed condition, but it also includes intrigue, humor, and suspense. Although labeled as a young adult selection, many adults will find this satisfying reading as well.

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