Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
After being drawn to Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork (2009) by the cover, the concept of a story revolving around a teenage boy on the Autism spectrum pulled me into actually reading the book.
Marcelo is seventeen and has always gone to a school for children with special needs. He's comfortable there, interacting with the other kids and working with the horses. He's even all set to start a summer job working with the ponies, learning how to train them to interact with the kids.
Then his father issues an ultimatum. Marcelo either spends the summer between his junior and senior years of high school working in the mailroom at Dad's law firm, or Marcelo has to go to regular school for senior year. If he is successful living in the "real world" for the summer, Marcelo can choose which school to attend.
Marcelo hears music in his head, doesn't understand social expressions and cues, and has a difficult time with activities and situations a lot of people take for granted as being part of everyday life. In other words, he definitely falls somewhere on the Autistic spectrum scale, which brings a unique perspective of the world into the view of the reader, as handled skillfully by Stork.
Marcelo learns the lessons of the "real world" and about forming his own identity, blazing his own path, and, best of all, helping others in a way his father never could have predicted. I left the story feeling very happy for Marcelo about where he's headed.
My overall personal rating of Marcelo in the Real World is a B+.