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.
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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?