The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork: Book Cover

Marcelo in the Real World


Author: Francisco Stork


Page Length: 312  


Reading Level: 5.3


Genre: Realistic Fiction


Career Connection:  Lawyer, Teacher, Occupational Therapist, Ministry

PLOT SUMMARY:  It isn’t often that a father forces his son to give up a job he has secured on his own, to take one in his own office.  However, that is what happens to Marcelo Sandoval, the summer before his senior year in high school.  Marcelo had planned to take care of the ponies at Paterson, his special school’s therapeutic-riding stables.  Marcelo exhibits qualities of Asperger’s Syndrome and is more comfortable at Paterson than he is in the real world.

His dad, Arturo, is a prominent lawyer.  He has always felt that Marcelo could overcome any obstacles he has, and wants to prove it to Marcelo by having him work in the mail room at his law firm.  He also wants Marcelo to attend the local regular high school, Oak Ridge High, rather than Paterson in the fall. Marcelo agrees to work for his father, if at the end of the summer he can make the choice of the school he will attend in the fall. 

Marcelo finds that working with Jasmine in the mailroom is not as bad as he thought it would be.  Jasmine is patient with him and he becomes comfortable in the working routine they have.  It is when Wendell, one of the partner’s sons, also working at the firm, confronts Marcelo and makes inappropriate remarks about Jasmine that Marcelo becomes upset.  Marcelo does not know how to react to Wendell, his feelings towards Jasmine, or a picture he finds when he is doing some work for Wendell.  The information he gains about the picture will affect a high profile case and the future of the firm. 

Will Marcelo tell what he knows about “the real world” or stay hidden in his Asperger-like comfort zone of Paterson?

REVIEW:  The book is narrarated by Marcelo who frequently talks of himself in third person.  He relates some of his peculiarities (e.g., he has obsessions with God and religion, hears internal music (IM), and sleeps in a tree house). He shares the difficulty he faces as he must learn menial tasks of the mailroom and deal with office politics.  He retains his innocence while considering the possibility of love, ethical dilemmas and other conflicts. 

Teen boys and girls, as well as adults, would enjoy this book that deals with the conflicts exposed for not only a boy with Asperger’s, but professional and social issues they may encounter themselves in the “real world”.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Characters, Point of View, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

TOUCHY AREAS: Occasional harsh profanity and sexual inferences

RELATED BOOKS: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Rules, Anything But Typical

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Mozart and the Whale (2005), Adam (2009), Rain Man (1988)

RELATED WEBSITES:…/scholastic-ala-2010-award-winners.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


November 15, 2009


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Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: 16 year old Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder. He is accused of taking part in a convenience store robbery where the shop owner is shot and killed. Steve Harmon is accused of being the “look out” during the robbery. James King, the accused shooter during the robbery, is also on trial. Both boys are represented by separate lawyers.

Steve decides to write a movie script about his time in jail and his time during the trial. He writes his thoughts and reflections on notebook paper in journal format and records the actual events of the trial in movie scene format. Steve’s love for movie scripts has been nurtured through his high school education so it is only natural for this teenager to express his emotions in such as format. Monster shifts back and forth between Steve’s loneliness in jail and the tension in the courtroom. In jail, Steve is left with his own thoughts about himself. He is left to reflect on how others view him. The prosecutor has labeled him a monster, his father looks at him in a different light, and Steve questions if his lawyer views him as guilty or not.

Many of the witnesses that testify against Steve are jail inmates themselves that have motives for their testimonies. This plays in favor for Steve. Steve’s lawyer tries her best to distance Steve from the other accused (James King, the shooter). Steve’s lawyer feels that if the jury can see a difference between Steve and James, then possibly the jury will see Steve as the good one of the two.

In the end, the jury finds James King guilty and Steve Harmon not guilty. When Steve turns to hug his lawyer in appreciation, his lawyer stiffens and turns away.

Monster is a creative example of the inner-workings of the mind of an accused teenager. Is Steve Harmon truly a monster or a victim of circumstance?

I would recommend that this book be read and studied as a group. The organization (movie script format) may be confusing for some. It is a good story that can generate discussion on a number of current topics.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, vocabulary (ex. dispensary), reading in different formats: diary, movie script

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: language on pages 80 and 81, imagery of jail-death row, vague descriptions of sexual acts in jail

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

MEDIA CONNECTIONS: Law and Order – TV series

RELATED WEBSITES: (scroll down to the middle for 9 links) (scroll down to the middle for 6 links),M1  (copy of the book on-line through google)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 24, 2008


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Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 277

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder.  He is 16 years old, scared, and alone in jail.  The prosecutor calls him a MONSTER.

The story is written in a movie format as Steve writes and directs it.  As the prosecutor brings witnesses to the stand, the reader experiences Steve’s thoughts and emotions.  He is excused because of the testimony of one of the men who committed the robbery.  Supposedly, Steve was an accomplice by going into the neighborhood store in Harlem, checking it out to see if it was safe, and giving the two robbers a “go ahead” sign to enter the store.  As the robbery takes place, the store owner pulls a gun, and in a struggle, the gun goes off, and the owner dies.

Steve’s lawyer never gives him much hope, but there is no “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Steve was actually involved.  As he takes the stand, he denies being in the store the day of the crime.  He does acknowledge knowing the accomplices. The jury is left to decide the outcome of his future. 

REVIEW:  I have read several of Walter Dean Myers young adult books and enjoyed this one the most.  As he writes the book in a play format, the reader becomes very attached to Steve Harmon’s feelings and fears.  Meyer’s lets the reader come to his own conclusion about Steve’s guilt or innocence.  I think the book would be a good class novel to read.

At the end of the book, there are a section of questions for discussion and questions for the author that would be good to use if read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Setting, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Conflict, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Violent content but written in an acceptable manner

RELATED BOOKS:  Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Bad Boy: A Memoir


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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