Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book Review: "The Inexplicable Logic of My Life" by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The minute I received an email from NetGalley promoting Benjamin Alire Sáenz's new book, I jumped on it and submitted a request for an advance copy. I absolutely loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (see my review), so I figured even if this one wasn't that good, I still had to read it. Needless to say, I was so pleased to get approved right away, and I began the book the second I finished my previous one.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a different book than Aristotle and Dante..., but man, was it special. I have a hellacious cold, making sleeping (and breathing, really) fairly impossible in my current state, so last night I read nearly the entire book, between 11:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. Needless to say, this is how I ended up:

Sal is ready to start his senior year of high school. It's going to be a pivotal year with so much on the horizon, but while his childhood best friend Samantha can think of nothing more than going to college as far away from El Paso as she can (no matter what her mother says), he's getting more and more stressed about the potential for change. Suddenly this anxiety is manifesting itself via anger—all he wants to do is hit people. Whether it's the idiot who called his father a faggot, someone who called him a pinche gringo (even though he is white, he was adopted by his Mexican father), or one of Sam's bad-guy boyfriends, he suddenly can't stop using his fists, and he doesn't understand why, and he is afraid of how people will react if they knew how angry he was.

"But Sam, she had this image of me that I was a good boy, and she was in love with that image. She was in love with simple, uncomplicated, levelheaded Sally. And I didn't know how to tell her that I wasn't all those beautiful things she thought I was. That things were changing, and I could feel it but couldn't put it into words."

Sadly, life throws them curve after curve in this crucial year, and Sal must deal with some major emotional crises, and come to terms with who he is, and what becoming a man really means. But at the same time, he realizes once again the power of friendship and family, of words, of loving and being loved, and of giving people a chance. This is a beautiful, emotional, heart-warming, and life-affirming book, and although there was perhaps a little too much melodrama to deal with in the plot, I applaud Sáenz for not taking the story down a few paths I feared he might.

One of the reasons I love Sáenz's writing so much is that he has such a love for his characters that you can't help loving them, too, and seeing them in your mind's eye. This book is 450+ pages long yet I could have read more, although I might have gotten dehydrated from all of the crying! (And not just sad crying, but good crying, too.)

He uses beautiful imagery and creates some poetic moments, even if at times some friction would have been avoided if people just said what they felt. But ultimately, this is one of those books that teaches you to let yourself be loved, and that no matter what your background or life situation is, you still are entitled to dream and believe in yourself.

I'll sit and wait for Sáenz's next book, readying for this again:

NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group/Clarion Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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