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

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

23447923Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Format: eARC
Goodreads Synopsis:

The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?


I’ve actually been sitting on this review for a little over a week now and wasn’t sure I was going to post it on my blog. One because I was completely unhappy with it. Two because for the first time I was scared to share my opinion on a book. Alas, a lot of editing and realizing some other bloggers shared a similar opinion and here it is…

In the time that I’ve been blogging I’ve never struggled with writing a review as much as I did with this one. I have so many mixed feelings where The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is concerned. On one hand, this book was really moving. The writing flowed in an incredible way but was so simplistic at the same time. Basically, it’s exactly what I expected from Benjamin Alire Sáenz after having loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. However, on the other hand, I was completely let down by several aspects. There were things about this book that I really didn’t like. Which is something I didn’t expect after how incredible Ari & Dante was. Let me explain.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a very character driven book. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there wasn’t any plot at all but rather that each character had a plot of their own. This book is the perfect example of a coming-of-age story. It’s family and friendship centered. It explores growing up, lives changes, grief, learning how to move on, discovering who you are, and different kinds of love. It also distinctly lacks romantic relationships in the three core characters. It had a lot of diversity. It had a beautiful message.

Pretty much it was almost exactly what I’ve been wanting to see from YA contemporary.

For the most part, we follow Sal as he navigates through his senior year of high school which is full of a lot of changes that have him questioning himself and wondering if who he thinks he is isn’t who he actually is. Sal is someone who doesn’t like change and finds himself a bit lost when faced with it. He’s also someone who is fiercely loyal to his friends and family, he loves them so much. I automatically adored him and couldn’t help but cry with him through most of the book.

Sam, another character we follow, is Sal’s best friend. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like her but I also wouldn’t say that I completely loved her. She was a bit too nosey and pushy at times. I didn’t like the hatred she had for other girls and the fact that she called them bitches. I’ve talked to other bloggers recently about my dislike for girl hate in YA so you can imagine my disappointment when it was showcased in this book. I mean can we stop perpetuating the girl hate stereotype in YA already? That aside I adored her friendship with Sal and how much she cared for him. I also loved how much she grew by the end of the book.

Then there’s Fito, I loved him. Hands down he was probably my favorite. His life hasn’t been easy and yet he lives each day with the hope that he’ll have a better future. In fact, he’s doing everything he can to make it happen. I admired his resilience.

That brings me to the Sal, Sam, and Fito friendship trio. The way Benjamin Alire Sáenz crafted the friendship between the three of them was beautiful and moving. What I loved the most was how their friendship was based on unconditional love. Each character had their flaws and yet they loved each other despite those flaws. They were always there for each other no matter what.

And finally, Sal’s father Vicente. We need more parents in YA like him. He was just so caring, loving, and supportive. I love the close relationship he had with Sal and how they actually communicated. I’m overusing the word beautiful but seriously their relationship was beautiful.

Aside from those four, there are a plethora of other characters in this book from Sam’s mom to Sal’s Mima and all of the other family members. I won’t go into any detail about the rest because of spoilers. But, yeah, the friendship and family dynamics in this book were great.

Remember how I said it was almost exactly what I’ve been wanting to see in YA contemporary? The key word here being almost. Aside from the girl hate there were several other aspects that disappointed me.

There was problematic language that I felt should have been left out. A mental illness and an eating disorder are used in negative terms – “schizophrenic dork” and “emotional anorexic”. And then there were stereotypes used – “You know, for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight.” Personality has nothing to do with someone’s sexuality. Can we stop stereotyping? There were several other incidents of language and stereotypes that shouldn’t have been used but those are the three that I highlighted in my notes.

Then there was something else that I didn’t like, in the beginning of the book Sam is nearly raped by her boyfriend but it’s never acknowledged for what it is. That whole subplot, if you can even call a few mentions out of a 400+ page novel a subplot, wasn’t handled well. In fact, the whole topic of sexual assault was kind of veiled or brushed under a rug for the most part. I can’t even coherently describe how angry this one scene in regards to it made me. Overall the way it was handled made it feel unimportant and as if it could have been left out and nothing about the story would have changed. Which given the seriousness and importance of such a topic I wasn’t happy about that.

Fadwa @ Word Wonders explains the problems in this book better than me and in more detail so I highly recommend checking out her review.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life had so much potential. I found the characters relatable and was so wrapped up in their lives that I shed tears several times. There was this heartwarming message of learning to embrace life and all of its ups and downs. However, while I loved a lot there was also a lot that disappointed me. I’m still feeling very mixed over my rating and it could change in the future. Can I say with complete certainty that I recommend this book? No, I can’t. I say read at your own discretion if you do decide to give it a chance.

Have you read The Inexplicable Logic of My Life? What did you think?




35 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

  1. you have rendered me speechless after reading your review. thank you for writing it and sharing your concerns. i can see why it would’ve been a problem for me as well. i’m tired of the girl hate in YA and i cringed a bit when i read in your review the terms “schizophrenic dork” and “emotional anorexic” that’s just so not cool and not acceptable at all.
    i hope your next read is a lot better ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for writing this amazing review! I haven’t read either of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s books yet, but after reading so many rave reviews about Aristotle and Dante I’m surprised to see how many problematic elements this book holds (especially those negative and stereotypical terms and the way that the topic of sexual assault was handled, that’s just unacceptable). I was planning on picking up this book soon but now I’m definitely not as eager to read it, to say the least. Thank you for addressing all of the issues that this book holds in such a well written and thoughtful way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The problematic elements were definitely unexpected given how much I enjoyed Ari & Dante and how great the representation is in that book. Big time let down and I think the problematic language could have easily been used as a tool to call out a very real problem but sadly it wasn’t.
      Of course! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely review, Melissa! I think you perfectly summed up how I ended up feeling about this book. It was an interesting story, I loved Fito so much just as well, but it made me a bit mad to see just how many problematic things were in this book :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Marie!! ♥
      Yeah, it was such an interesting story and I love how each character had their own plot. It could have easily been one of my all time favorites if it hadn’t been for the problems. A let down considering how incredible Ari & Dante was. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review Melissa, I’ve seen a lot of reviews for this book popping up on WordPress recently, I guess as it’s nearing it’s release date, and all of them seem to share the same thoughts you have; that parts of this book were good but there were problematic areas as well which could have been better handled. I loved Aristotle and Dante when I read it so I guess I would have hoped for more from this book as well. It sounds like the characters were well written, which I guess they’d have to be for a book that is solely character driven like this one, but that there were more than a few problematic areas that could have been missed out all together – in the case of girl hate and stereotypes – or just dealt with better – in the case of the sexual assault.
    I’ll still be picking this book up myself someday but I’ll definitely be going into it with lowered expectations after reading yours and some of the other reviews I’ve seen for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Beth!! ♥
      Definitely, this book had a lot of things about it that were incredible. It’s one of the first times that I’ve read a YA contemporary that focused completely on family and friendships that didn’t have a romance aspect at all. And the characters really were well written. It had the potential to be as great as Ari & Dante but yeah the problematic areas took away from the good. I feel like the hurtful and stereotypical language actually could have been edited out of the book and it wouldn’t have changed what was being accomplished with it, same with the girl hate. And the sexual assault plot could have definitely been handled better. I was most upset about that because it’s such an important topic and for a YA book to showcase it unimportant felt really wrong.
      I can’t wait to see what you end up thinking of it whenever you do read it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s all right! 😀 ❤
        I've seen a fair few positive reviews I'll admit, and one thing all of them seem to mention is the strong family and friend relationships throughout. I've also seen about the lack of a romantic aspect which I'll admit I'm interested in as well. It's just a shame there were too many hurtful things in this book that kind of ruined it a little for you.
        It's always a shame when a book doesn't live up to the expectations an authors first book maybe have you,and it sounds like this was the case for a lot of people when it came to this book. I guess if you didn't really need to stereotypes and the girl hate and the sexual assault it probably made it worse that it was included.
        Well I'll be sure to let you know. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve seen quite a few positive reviews for it too and it does deserve that on the family and friendship front. I’m just hoping for more books that have that focus in the future minus the hurtful aspects. Not that I don’t enjoy a good romance YA contemporary but there was a distinct lack of drama in this that I feel some can have so that was nice lol.
        Definitely, especially when you’re expectations are sky high. Either that or if the problematic elements were used to call out hurtful language and stereotypes. I feel like there was a missed opportunity in not having done that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh that’s good to hear, but actually I haven’t seen all that many positive reviews where the reviewer hasn’t been somewhat disappointed with the way it ended and some of the negative-ish aspects you mentioned in this review. It’s great this book has that focus, maybe it’s the start of us seeing more like it.
        Well I feel like I’ve been thoroughly warned about this book so I guess it can only help when I do pick it up! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely review, Melissa, this perfectly sums up how I felt about this book! I adored Vicente, such an amazing father figure, and I loved Fito as well, those two were hands down my favourite characters. Sal I loved quite a bit as well, I loved his journey so much and his love for his father, his friends, his family, all of it was so sweet. But Sam, ugh, so conflicted because I didn’t hate her, but her behaviour towards other girls is just again perpetuating the girl hate ideal that is so hurtful and all too common. I did love her and Sal’s friendship though, and her growth, as well!
    There were so many aspects to this book, and although I loved certain aspects, there were definitely problematic areas that I wasn’t a fan of. The language, the sexual assault being brushed over, all of it could’ve been handled so much better! I haven’t read Ari and Dante yet, but I heard it is much better and most people seem to love it, so I have higher hopes for that one! Great review, Melissa!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Analee!! 😊
      Vicente was definitely such an incredible father figure and Fito was just a great character in general and I agree about Sal. But, yeah, I am completely with you on Sam. I was so conflicted about her because she had a lot of great qualities and in the beginning before the girl hate came up she was almost my favorite. In the end I actually kind of think it was the friendship between her and Sal and then later the friendship trio that included Fito that made me like her more along with her own growth as a character.
      Yep, all of that could have been handled way better! Some of it could have even been edited out or used to call out real problems. There were missed opportunities there. But you should definitely read Ari & Dante! Night and day compared to this one and such great representation and family dynamics. I think you would like it. 😊💕

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s such a shame about Sam! It was mostly the friendship between her and Sal and later Fito as well that redeemed her in the end, as well as her growth. But she had so much more potential!
        I can’t wait to read Ari & Dante then!! That sounds right up my alley ahah. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Incredible review, Melissa ♥ It’s a shame that this one had so many problematic elements because it seems like it could have been amazing. I understand why harmful language needs to be used, but it needs to be challenged in the text otherwise it’s a huge issue and people won’t realise why it’s wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Lauren! 💕
      Oh it definitely had the potential to be incredible. It could have been an all time favorite for me. But yeah the problematic elements took away so much and I completely agree about it needing to be challenged. There was a giant missed opportunity with the fact that it wasn’t along with it just being hurtful.


  7. Fantastic and well balanced review Melissa! You have managed to capture the essence of your experience and highlight the pros while tackling the cons so well. Loved it! I do not think this would be a fit for me, but I am glad it was not a complete loss for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The way they spoke about mental illness bothers me. There’s a fine line between mental illness/orientation and humor and this author crossed it multiple times. Honestly I don’t know if I’d ever read this book because it bothers me a lot. I’m glad though that regardless of these crossed lines you were able to enjoy The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really bothered me too. I definitely feel like the author crossed the line big time because some of the things were just hurtful. It was disappointing because the author’s first book is full of great representation. But, yeah, there were good parts which is what made me feel so mixed about it.


  9. “You know, for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight.” Good gosh, that’s awful! Definitely going to give this a miss. I’m big into mental health and equality for LGBTQ and definitely feel no need to support this book, which kind-of kills me as when I saw the cover I was like “I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW.” It’s so pretty. Too bad the words don’t match.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, when I read that I remember scoffing and wanting to walk away from the book. It was such a shame considering it’s actually an own voices book. But, yeah, I completely get passing on reading it. I would have probably done the same if I had known ahead of time.


  10. Amazing review Melissa! 🙂 It’s too bad about the negative things in this book. I’m sooo tired of seeing girl hate in books. I was very exited about this book, as I loved Aristotle and Dante (it’s one of my favourites) but now seeing reviews of it I’m really not inclined to read it. I just don’t know, I might pick it up but probably not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Anna! 😊
      Yeah, it was a shame. Ari & Dante is one of my favorites too so I was big time let down because I expected this one to be incredible. But, yeah, girl hate needs to leave YA. All of the contemporaries I’ve read this year so far have had girl hate. 😖

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahhh that seriously sucks!! :/ Well, I hope the next contemporary you decide to read will be better.


  11. Awesome review Melissa! I do like Sal’s dad and Sal’s friend Fito too. Sal’s dad is amazing and we definitely do need more of him around. Were you able to predict what happens to Fito’s mom? I can easily tell after what happened with Sam’s mom. And yeah, good point for scrutinizing about Sam’s boyfriend. It shouldn’t be brushed off that easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Jasmine!! ♥
      I actually didn’t predict what would happen with Fito’s mom. I should have given everything with Sam’s mom and then the stuff with Sal’s Mima but for some reason I didn’t and it ended up surprising me. Definitely, it really shouldn’t have been brushed off so easily.

      Liked by 1 person

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