Transition into Adulthood – Autism Awareness Month

As many youth within the autism spectrum transition into adulthood, the next decade will be an especially important time.  I want to share one of my favorite young adult fiction novels, where the protagonist is faced with that very challenge.  

Marcelo in the Real World, a brilliant and authentic novel written by Francisco X. Stork, allows the reader to experience the life of a high-functioning  17-year-old boy, who has a unique form of autism commonly known as Asperger’s Syndrome.  Stork has created an endearing  character in Marcelo Sandoval, who is raw and honest in the way he perceives the world.  The book is written in first person, although he highlights Marcel’s flat inflection of voice, his  use of third person in conversations,  and his obsessive interests.  He gives us a glimpse into his mind. 

Marcelo has led a fairly protective life attending private schools for kids with disabilities.  He is looking forward to a summer job as a stable man at the school, caring for the ponies.  As Marcelo ends his junior year, his father, Arturo, feels differently.   He wants Marcelo to experience the real world, and spend the summer working at his law firm interacting daily with workers.  Arturo strikes a bargain with Marcelo.   If he follows the rules of the real world and succeeds, he will be able to decide whether to return to his private school for his senior year, or attend a public high school.  

Marcelo works in the mailroom where he is supervised by Jasmine, a striking co-worker, who confronts Marcelo about his “cognitive disorder.”   Marcelo explains that the term implies that “there is something wrong with the way I think or with the way I perceive reality. ”  “I perceive reality just fine.  Sometimes I perceive more of reality than others.”  Jasmine is very accepting of Marcelo, and finds ways to use his strengths.    

Marcelo also will have to deal with Wendell, the conniving son of Arturo’s partner, Stephen Holmes.   Through his daily interactions with people at the firm,  it’s sink or swim for Marcelo as he learns to navigate  the real world.  Marcelo learns about  competition, anger, abuse of power, betrayal, envy, desire and compassion.  Marcelo is challenged to make very difficult decisions when he’s confronted with a situation of  injustice  in the law firm.  Will Marcelo be able to stand up to his father and Stephen, expose the truth and do what is right?   

Stork really took the time to create an engaging and educational experience for those wanting to journey into  Marcelo’s world.  An excellent book for teenagers and young adults.  It received the Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2009, the School Library Journal Best Book for 2009, and the New York Times Children’s Book of 2009.

For more information on helping your teenager make the transition to adulthood, contact Austism Speaks  for their helpful  “Transition Tool Kit.”  Over one-half million children will make this transition, and they will want to have homes,  jobs and friends.   This is a societal issue.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

12 thoughts on “Transition into Adulthood – Autism Awareness Month

  1. Wow, what an introduction to “the real world” this would be for someone like Marcelo. Your in-depth review makes me want to read the book, both to expand my understanding of this difficult transition as well as of Asperger’s, and to compare it to Taylor’s transition into adulthood as told in the novel “Waiting for No One”.

    Thank you, Pat.


    • Read this book a few months ago, and knew I wanted to review it. It is fiction and a page turner, especially at the end. There is an element of suspense in the story. Marcelo is challenged throughout the story, but you really see how his mind works, especially when he makes very forward, yet honest comments that make others uncomfortable. But, he learns. I think you would enjoy the book. Plan to take Wild Orchid with me on vacation, so I can spend some time with it. Glad you enjoyed the review.


  2. Your review gives me just the perfect amount of information to have me intrigued, but not enough to spoil the plot! With three awards it does sound like a really authentic, fictional account of the young Marcelo’s encounter with the real world. I love how part of Asperger’s is often a preference for rules and honesty and clearly this plays out in this novel. I like the additional information you are providing with the posts, Pat, such as the link to the “Transition Tool Kit”.


    • Thank you. I really liked having the teenager with Asperger’s, be the protagonist in the story. Yes, the author has written other books, too. He’s an attorney and quite good at writing. Reminding me a bit of Jodi Picoult’s adult novel, “House Rules.” Watched the last segment of The Talk yesterday on teenagers transitioning into adulthood. They featured a wonderful young man who holds down a job and helps coach basketball at his former high school. They discussed how society needs to play a role. And, there are dangers with law enforcement, as depicted in Picoult’s book. Holly Robinson Peete and the director of Austism Speaks, urged everyone with a teenager reaching adulthood, to take them to the police stations in their area and introduce them to law enforcement officers. The police need to know about their inability to read social cues, flat expressions, and unusual behaviors. Holly said every teenager should carry a card identifying his/her autism, so they aren’t arrested for the wrong reasons. Felt the additional information is important. Thanks.


  3. Another truely invaluable post. This is certainly a book I would love to get my hands on. You are right about the police needing to know as well. Good idea that they should carry a card or some identification so others will know. Society needs to know so as to be better prepared to help and understand and guide them. (Congrats on the FB posts by the way.)


    • Thanks Diane, I’m glad you read the post. This was a favorite book. I’ve learned so much this past month. Am glad I chose to focus on the autism spectrum. Yes, the card is important as well as taking the child to the police station. It made me think about myself and carrying a card or letter from my doctor that identifies I have neurological issues. If I was stopped by a police officer and asked to walk a line, heal-to-toe or stand on one leg for 30 seconds, I couldn’t because my brain won’t let me. Even made me think.

      As far as the FB posts, sometimes they appear and sometimes they don’t. I have the box checked. Instead, my entire review is sent out on FB and so is yours. Beth somehow has mastered that.


  4. Oh my. I hadn’t thought of the potential problems with law enforcement, as those typical behaviours could so easily be misread. Thank you for pointing that out, Pat.


    • Beth, I know you are swamped reading children’s books. But, if you haven’t read Jodi Picoult’s novel, “House Rules,” I hope you add it to your list. It is about a teenager who has AS and his fascination with forensics, and how it eventually gets him in trouble with the law — just because of his obsession, his inability to read social cues, and show empathy. Her books always are page turners and their are many twists and turns. Made for a good novel — but unfortunately it may happen to some of the youth — most of whom are known for their honesty.


  5. This is like a discussion panel here almost….lol
    I was just thinking the same as Joanna, about your comments Pat, very interesting.
    You brought up the subject about walking a straight line if pulled up by the law and how you could not do that. Reminded me of when my husband first had his injury for some years he was exactly the same, and had no coordination at all, but time heals….. well so they say! Although if you ask him to walk a straight line toe to heal now, he probably may have a bit of difficulty still, ….I’ve not asked him. (His memory also went) He had therapy for 18 months. His boss was very good at that time and when he was ready to start work, eased him back in, couple of half days a week, then all week, then full on. We were lucky to have friends to help. A friend in the police force also said he meant for us to attend head injury councelling, which we did not do, mainly because it was only mentioned to us about 10yrs later… (rather late I thought). I think today I have a better understanding of what is available in our society here, that would help us if it happened now, but there is always room for improvement.


    • You’re right. We all have many discussions. Your husband was lucky after his brain injury to have the support of so many people. Sounds like he’s done well. Like kids with autism, anyone with a disability/special needs or should carry a card for law enforcement reasons. I can just imagine how traumtic it would be for a young adult with autism or AS. 🙂


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