The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published by: Clarion Books
Released: March 7 (US) May 1 (Australia) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books
Read: March 6 2017
There’s a lot that’s celebratory and inspiring in Saenz’s books. They are full of love and honesty, and while the characters go through many troubles and upheavals, they are surrounded by good people who love them.
But there are problems too. Issues that I miss are pointed out in other reviews, so if you are interested in looking at, and considering aspects of the book that have offended others, there are lots of 1 and 2 star reviews at Goodreads.
I want to focus on what’s good about this book because there’s plenty of that. Sal lives with Vicente, a gay man who was best friends with Sal’s mother, was there at Sal’s birth, and who agreed to look after him after Sal’s mother dies. Theirs is a particularly effective and affecting relationship. Sal recognises that not everyone is lucky enough to have what he has–an open and trusting bond that grows even stronger over the course of this long and somewhat rambly book.
Both Sal’s best friends, Sam and Fito both have mothers who neglect them, and no strong father influence in their lives. It’s fitting that Saenz includes Sal’s grandmother Mimo, because really most of the females lack any substance of positive representation. We can say they love their children ‘in their own ways’, but really that flatters them, and I am not sure they deserve even that. Sal is constantly wondering how two smart and resilient young people could have developed from such tough childhoods.
He wonders about that, because he is also focused on his own genetic makeup. He has started to get into fights, and spends a lot of his internal monologues wondering how much darkness he has, as part of his DNA, considering Vicente is not at all violent or rough. Nurture versus nature. It’s a terrific exploration, and Sal’s concluding thoughts are worthwhile and true.
The three teenagers suffer too much grief. If I have a quibble, it’s that there is so much death in this book. But it gives them a chance to be there for each other, to gather their sadness and longings, and to look forward, to try to make the best of the good things they have. I am happy to say that Sal acknowledges when moments are happy, and doesn’t dwell on the bad times. Instead he tries to have perspective and hope.
There’s all sorts of diversity, inclusiveness, and great flawed characters, both adult and teenaged. It is a long book, with little plot, charting the days of Sal’s final year of high school. The three friends grow and learn, and are ready to face their futures by the end. It’s lovely.
Thank you to Clarion Books and Netgalley for approving this book. Out in the US earlier this week, and available in Australia in May.
Recommended to readers who enjoy their stories full of warmth and love. They must also accept that death is a natural and inevitable progression, and that some people’s lives are harsher and more unjust than others. There’s a lot of discussion about parental responsibility, and the meaning of friendship, and it’s light on romance and melodrama.