Writer's Book Club

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Join the Writer’s Book Club in discussing MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork! Interesting tidbit: Stork’s newest book, THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS, releases this week! I’m adding it to my TBR list.

To keep from spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it yet, I’ll post the discussion questions in the comments of this post. If you have read the book, click on “Comments” to respond with your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, then what are you waiting for?? Go out and get it!

Remember to be respectful of everyone, and the WBC should run smoothly. I may be slow with responses this week, but I’ll do my best.

Let the discussion begin!


14 thoughts on “Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork


    1. The focus I chose for this book was staying true to point-of-view. I have never read a POV quite like Marcelo’s. Do you think Stork accurately maintained the POV throughout the book? What details made it feel either realistic or not?

    2. Aurora says Marcelo thinks differently than most kids his age. Do you agree? If so, how does Stork show the difference in thoughts?

    3. How did you feel about the Internal music (IM) and the way it changed throughout the story?

    4. Marcelo’s religious beliefs play a large role in the story. In a world where religion is becoming increasingly taboo, how can authors write about religion without offending readers?

    5. This book addresses several important issues. Which issue meant the most to you?

    6. Add anything you would like to share! 😀

  2. I just lent out my copy of the book, so I don’t have any of the quotes that I was going to use! Bummer.

    This is never a book I would have picked up on my own. Not a huge fan of drama, and especially not a huge fan of lawyer dramas. But holy cow! This book swept me away. I was completely lost in the story. It was a page turner. There was conflict, beauty, heart, and tension on every page! I’m SO glad that I’m in this book club and that Erin chose this book, or else I would never have read it.

    It is one of the books that changed my life.

    I’ve always appreciated people who’s minds are different than “normal”. I nannied a Down’s Syndrome boy all through high-school, and took care of many, many mentally ill and mentally different people as a nurse. It can be very disheartening and discouraging at times. This book opened up my mind, helped me see clearly how pure and special someone “different” can be. The beauty of thinking differently. Now, floods of stories come back into my heart of mentally ill patients I’ve cared for that make me love them even more.

    I guess that is how this book changed my life. It helps me love mentally different people.

    • I’m not a fan of lawyer dramas either, LOL. A hundred of them on TV and I’ve never watched one of them. I don’t even remember for sure why I picked up this book last year. I think I saw a good review for it and decided to give it a chance. Am I ever glad that I did! It is definitely a life-changer.

      I didn’t know you had nannied a boy with Down’s Syndrome—learn something new everyday! I haven’t had the opportunity to work closely with someone who is “mentally different,” but this book gave me insight that I never would’ve had otherwise. A glimpse into an innocent and unique mind. I love the beauty of thinking differently.

  3. Now for the questions. 🙂
    1. I haven’t read a POV like Marcello’s. I really like the things Stork left out, and the things he added. He never talked about tone of voice (because Marcello can’t recognize different tones in voices). He always added details like, “it was on level twelve, there were three paperclips, the air-conditioner was running”. Things that not everyone would notice. He was also “unemotional”, couldn’t do two things at once, had the same routine every day, and became stressed if the “norm” was changing. He had an incredibly consistent, and very lovable voice.

    • Did you notice though how Marcelo got better at detecting facial expressions and tones of voice? The longer he was at the law firm, the better he became at reading people. I really liked that growth in his character. And it shows he can learn to act like a “normal” person, which reassures me that he’ll survive at the public high school.

      Other details I liked: how Marcelo focused on certain new words or phrases he didn’t understand; how he couldn’t walk down the street without his senses being overwhelmed; how he referred to himself and others in third person; how he took some things so literally. So many great POV details—I loved it! Not only is it realistic for the sake of the story, but it makes Marcelo feel like a real person, not a flat character.

  4. 3. I don’t know about the IM. I think it was too much. I think that Stork wanted to make it his “inner journey” of trying to regain his inner music. But I don’t believe Marcelo was upset enough about losing it, or missed it enough. Marcelo had so much already that I think the IM was one detail too many.
    But it might also mean that I tore through the book so fast that I didn’t have time to notice or appreciate the beauty of that detail. 🙂 I really like the idea.

    • I struggled to grasp the IM. It was hard for Marcelo to explain, and hard for me to fathom. I think the IM was supposed to reflect Marcelo’s innocence or his religious beliefs, or both. As the summer continued and Marcelo heard the IM less and less, it seemed to be because of his loss of innocence and faith. He was becoming more “normal” in the “real world.” But then, on the very last page when Jasmine kisses him on the cheek, it says, “I hear or I remember, I can’t tell which, the most beautiful of melodies.” If that’s referring to the IM, then I don’t understand how a kiss relates to innocence or faith (though it’s a lovely image of Jasmine bringing him music).

      In the first chapter, the IM is a big deal. The doctors are studying it and saying it occurs in the hypothalamus. So I thought the IM would continue to be a major issue throughout the book . . . but it wasn’t. I kind of understand why, but I also wish we could’ve learned more about it. Maybe we’re not able to?

      I don’t think Marcelo would be upset the same way we would be upset. I think he did miss it in his way, but he was also very busy with the law firm, Ixtel, Jasmine, and everything that happened to him during the summer.

  5. 4. That is such a huge questions. One that every story, and every writer must answer differently.
    The only true thing that I know about that is that every Christian writer MUST try to glorify God with his/her work. If you’re aiming to do that then you’ll be on good ground.
    You should definitely not worry about offending readers. If Stephen King can write graphic rape scenes, then Christians can use the name Jesus. Good writing covers over a lot of potential “offensive” material. Use Marian Robinson for an example (winner of a Pulitzer for Gilead). She could not be MORE open about God, Jesus, Christians, Church, and all. Yet her incredible writing skills have earned her merit and the trust of her readers.

    • Yeah, it is a huge question. I didn’t know the answer, but I was hoping someone else would! 😀 I really like the way you answered it.

      I haven’t read Marian Robinson before. *adding to list*

      I guess the part I don’t understand is how a spiritual book fits into a non-Christian market. You go into a Christian bookstore and you expect to find fiction tailored for Christians. But MARCELO was not marketed as a religious book. It’s shelved as YA fiction where anybody, Christian* or not, could pick it up and be influenced by it. How did that happen, when so many other YA books don’t even mention religion? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it did happen—just trying to figure out the mechanics of it all.

      *Not just Christians, but people of other faiths as well, since the book also mentions Rabbi Heschel and the teachings of Buddha.

  6. 5. I really enjoyed the themes in this book. From stepping out of your comfort zone, to rising above stressful situations, to doing what you believe is right even if it means hurting someone you love. And the talks about sex were so good! I love his pure view. The themes were very strong and saturated the story with meaning.

    The one qualm I have with this book is that is should not be YA. It’s funny, I think I’d recommend it to 16 yr olds, but I wouldn’t say this is for a 12 yr old. Although it has a 17 yr old protag, I don’t believe this to be relevant to most 12 yr olds, thus I think it should be marketed as an adult book. I wouldn’t recommend it to most teens that I know, but I would recommend it to ALL adults that I know. In particular, the situation of Jasmine getting drunk and kissing his father made me uncomfortable that it was marketed to such a young crowd. Thoughts?

    • You know, most books will say on the book jacket “12 & up” or “14 & up” or whatever. I cannot find any such label on MARCELO. But I do not think it’s appropriate for a 12-year-old. This is why it would be helpful to have two divisions of YA (which people in the book world have been discussing for awhile now). Maybe 12-15 for younger YA and 15-18 for older YA, or something like that. Sometimes it’s hard to label a book though. And of course, different kids have different maturity levels. In which case, who decides what’s appropriate? Publishers? Booksellers and librarians? Parents?

      I almost didn’t use MARCELO for this book club because of the adult themes and strong language. However, I felt like the good outweighed the bad. Jasmine getting drunk and kissing Arturo made me uncomfortable, too, but at least she admitted it was a mistake, and that she regretted it. Sometimes kids can learn from a character’s mistakes if they see the unpleasant consequences of it. I didn’t like the crude way Wendell talked about women, but I suppose it was necessary for contrasting with Marcelo’s view of women. The conversation between Samuel and Amos, though perhaps realistic, did not seem necessary to the themes of the story. I did like Marcelo’s discussions with Rabbi Heschel about sex, which were informative without being crude.

  7. I had a student with Asperger’s syndrome in Kindergarten. He is now in 5th grade. His progress has been amazing,mostly due to his mother. She is like Aurora – strong and gentle.

    There were so many great phrases in the book. I jotted them down to refer to later.

    Dr. Malone on p.9 – “If a child is happy, understood, and appreciated he will bloom in his own time.”

    Jasmine on p.169 – “The right note sounds right and the wrong note sounds wrong.”

    Jesus – “Be in the world, but not of the world.”

    Abraham Joshua Herschel – “Our effort is but a counterpoint in the music of His Will.”

    Rabbi – “Faith is following the music when we don’t hear it.”

    Marcelo – “Vermont will be the place Marcelo plays his counterpoint…doing what I can to lesson hurt in the world.”

    I was reading another book at the same time – THE FAITH EXPLAINED by Leo J. Trese. He said, “Every good life must be to some degree a heroic life. There always is the hidden heroism required for the conquest of self. Sometimes a still higher heroism is called for, when the doing of God’s will means the risk of losing friends or money or health. It is not without purpose that God strengthens our human weakness with his gift of fortitude.”

    Thank you Erin for suggesting books that make us grow spiritually!

    Love, Mom

    p.s. After reading the book, the music I heard was Willie Nelson singing BLUE SKIES.

    • I love the phrases you chose! There were certainly many great ones throughout the book. I also like the part when Marcelo and Jonah have a heart-to-heart:
      Jonah: Boy, you really break things down, don’t you?
      Marcelo: Some say it is an illness.
      Jonah: We should all be so ill.

      I like that quote by Trese. Marcelo had to be heroic.

      OH, Arthur just woke up. More later . . .

    • Continuing where I left off . . .

      I like to think of Marcelo’s faith as growing even stronger after the speed bump of the law firm. Before working there, his faith was never seriously challenged. He could hear the music without any effort. After the law firm, he was a different person. Like the Rabbi said, “Faith is following the music when we don’t hear it.” Marcelo will need a strong faith, but he is a great hero to root for.

      I wish I could always suggest such books as MARCELO, but they are hard to find! Sometimes YA fiction has no spirituality at all. I’ll keep an eye out though.

      “Nothing but blue skies do I see . . . “

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