While it does have its flaws, this book is both a pioneer and a solid offering.
Marcelo's voice was difficult to understand at first. I wish he had explained his tendency to refer to his parents by their given names much sooner, as I first thought his mother was a health worker, and later I thought she was his stepmother. I had a much easier time adjusting to his habit referring to everyone in third person. Despite the adjustment period, the decision to have Marcelo tell the story is important to the work, as it creates the most intimate portrait possible.
The conflict and tension in the story appear immediately when Marcelo's father announces that he will spend the summer working at his father's law firm. His father is so overbearing and convinced he's made the right decision, Marcelo so overwhelmed and upset that his father has taken away his choices, the reader automatically feels sympathy for Marcelo. Throughout the book, Stork stays close to Marcelo's struggles to orientate himself to "real world" life, his frustration and irritation, and his broadening emotional horizon as he learns how casually immorality occurs, discovers his father's imperfections, and ultimately commits to his own moral compass. The author doesn't sugar coat the way other people react to Marcelo's differences; the reader sees the prejudice Marcelo faces as other characters disregard him or, in one instance, try to take advantage of him.
I did feel that occasionally the descriptions of Marcelo's symptoms were uneven and inconsistent, but he's only supposed to have something that closely resembles Asperger's Syndrome, so I suppose that gives the author some wiggle room. While Marcelo comes to terms with the "real world" fairly quickly, he also has great difficulty doing so, and the reader must remember that he is 17 years old, highly intelligent, and has been given every advantage in life. I found the metamorphosis perfectly believable, with the exception of Marcelo's loss of his inner soundtrack. I didn't believe that his brain altered so much over a summer that he lost that symptom entirely.
The love story is incredibly subtle. The reader has to be alert to signs that Jasmine is falling for Marcelo and that Marcelo is becoming aware of his ability to love romantically, because while Marcelo faithfully explains events as they unfold, nonverbal communication and implied meanings are often lost on him. Having to read the signs raises the reader's level of involvement with their relationship, in my opinion. It also limits the book to more mature readers, but I think that was inevitable.
Is this book really a look through the eyes of someone with Asperger's Syndrome? I'm not qualified to answer that question, but I felt the book had many important messages: One person with courage can make a difference. What is accepted is not necessarily right. Power corrupts.
And most importantly, just because someone is more noticeably different than most people, does not mean they are defective.
Recommend to: Age 15+