Published by Clarion Books on March 7th 2017
From the multi-award-winning author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe comes a gorgeous new story about love, identity, and families lost and found.
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
After (finally) picking up Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe earlier last year, I fell deeply in love with Benjamin Alire Saenz’s prose. So, of course, I was thrilled to receive an e-arc of his latest book, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. I’ll be honest: in a lot of ways, these two stories felt like the exact same book, just with a different cast of characters. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, like Aristotle and Dante, focuses heavily on themes of grief, loss, family, friendships, and growing up. I think Saenz tackles these tricky themes exceptionally well. He seriously has a gift for writing the teenage experience like no other author I’ve ever read. I think this is due to the fact that his characters are all dealing with a lot of angst, but they process it in realistic ways. Saenz’s writing is understated, yet poignant..
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life takes place during our main character, Salvador’s, senior year of high school. The story focuses primarily on Salvador’s relationships with the people and the world around him– specifically, his relationship with his best friends, Samantha and Fito, and his relationship with his adoptive family. The narration style is almost a stream-of-consciousness-style narrative, since the story is told from Sal’s first-person POV. I really enjoy this style of narration, and it think it fits the story nicely. All the characters were lovable and so, so relatable. I especially loved Sal’s family, particularly his father. Definitely one of my new favorite father figures in YA lit. Each of the main characters undergoes so much growth over the course of the book, and I felt so damn proud of every one of them by the end. I was often moved to tears by the love among this cast of characters.
Much like Aristotle and Dante, not a lot seems to actually happen in the book. Sure, there are a few key events that drive the plot a bit, but the story focuses more on how these events shape the characters’ understanding of the world around them. Make no mistake, though; this is far from a fluffy contemporary. It tackles heavier topics, particularly focusing on grief and loss. I thought the characters coped with these emotions in realistic, human ways.
I love the way diversity was incorporated into The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Our main character is white, but has been adopted into a Mexican-American family– by a gay father, no less. One of Sal’s best friends, Fito, is also gay. The story takes place in El Paso, Texas, a border town, so many of the characters are of Mexican or Mexican-American descent, and Mexican culture is woven throughout the book.
Oh, and another thing I really appreciated about this book: there is virtually no romance, at least not among the main characters. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I’m honestly quite happy the story emphasized the incredibly strong platonic relationship between Salvador and his best friend, Sam, instead of forcing them into a romantic relationship. It made the love between them all the stronger, in my opinion.
All in all, this book gave me all the feelings, and I truly fell for these characters. I was instantly transported into the teenage experience, in the best, most authentic way. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys heavier, more character-driven YA contemporaries.
EDIT 2/27/17: I originally drafted this review upon finishing this book in November of 2016. Since then, in recent days, some problematic elements of Inexplicable Logic have been brought to my attention, and I feel it would be remiss not to include them in this review. Namely, a number of reviewers have mentioned the perpetuation of stereotypes contained in the language of this book– specifically regarding the label “gay.” Example: in one instance, Sal remarks that, “for a gay guy, [his] dad was pretty straight.” There are a couple of lines to this effect, as well as a fair amount of instances of people using the word “f*g” as an insult. The book also uses some ableist language, specifically referring to characters as “emotionally anorexic” or a “schizophrenic jerk.” There’s also a rape subplot that’s handled very poorly (more on that in this review). Because of this, I have dropped my original rating from 4 to 3 stars. I hope that some of these elements have been fixed in the final copy, but until I know for certain, I can no longer in good conscience recommend this book to others. I apologize to anyone I may have hurt through recommending this book in the past. Here are some reviews that discuss the problematic elements of Inexplicable Logic in further detail, and I would encourage you to read them if you are considering picking up this book:
- Brittany’s review (goes into the most detail re: the rape subplot)
- Avery’s review
- Fadwa’s review
- Cat’s review
Have you read The Inexplicable Logic of My Life? Thoughts?
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