Marcelo is 17 years old and has development disorder in the autism range, though no doctor is able to fully diagnose his condition. He is looking forward to his summer working with the horses at his school for special needs children. His father, however, has determined that Marcelo needs to experience life in the real world and work at his law firm in the mailroom. If Marcelo successfully works there the whole summer he can return to his special school and if not then his father wants him to go to the local High School.
Marcelo is determined to see the summer out at the law firm so he can return to his school and the horses. His boss in the mail room is a beautiful young woman called Jasmine. Jasmine understands Marcelo quickly and creates an environment in which he can thrive and grow in independence. She helps him rise to the challenges of corporate life. AT the same time Marcelo's father's business father has his son come to work in the firm for the summer. Marcelo distrusts Wendell instinctively and soon discovers that Wendell is motivated by self interest. The two fathers push their sons together and as a result Marcel learns much more about the real world than anyone anticipated. Marcelo throughout the entire summer struggles to be true to himself and at the same time trying to fit in with a world that operates simultaneously on face value and hidden meaning.
This book made me think and it has stayed with me even after a few weeks. The title is very provocative - prompting the question what is the real world? Marcelo's condition makes him evaluate everything literally and with that comes an honesty and integrity that is not common in the real world. He has to work hard at understanding the sub text and hidden meanings in what people say. This novel is rich in material to provoke thought and discussion, I can see why it is an award winner.
While looking for more information about the book I discovered the Story Sleuths website They challenge their readers to read like writers and to investigate award-winning children's literature for clues about how to improve their own writing. The chose this book to look at when it won the Schneider Family Book Award at the ALA Conference in Boston. Their discussion of the book is very detailed looking specifically at plot even to the extent of drawing a map of the plot. This is great teaching on the craft of writing and very good analysis of this book in particular.