The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Book Poster Image
Teen contemplates family, grief in slow but wise novel.

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age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Discusses and demonstrates the five stages of grief. References a few authors and positively portrays rewards of a good education and academic effort.

Positive Messages

"Whistling in the dark" -- or putting up a brave front -- helps you endure unavoidable difficulties. Family doesn't need to be defined by blood relation or law, and you can build the family that's right for you as you move through life. It's normal for family life to be messy sometimes. People get angry when they're afraid or feeling hurt. When someone asks you to follow rules, they're showing they care about you. Your dignity is internal, and it can't be affected by insults and disrespect from others unless you allow it to. Substance addiction is a disease, not a character flaw. Education can be the key to determining a better future for yourself. Letting go is painful but unavoidable, and you can find a special beauty in the process.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Introspective Sal is an observant friend, appreciating the surprises and subtleties of people he grows close to. He has a good heart and is deeply troubled by his own behavior when he gets into fights or makes poor judgments. Sam, an extroverted drama queen, is smart and ambitious. She's devoted to Sal, appreciative of his father, and open to trying to understand why Sal is so fond of Fito. She speaks her heart. Fito, despite being left to care for himself by his dysfunctional family, has a survivor's smarts and a strong will. He works and studies hard, intent on escaping his troubled home life and going to college. Sal's dad has a generous, caring heart that makes him a surrogate dad to Sal's troubled friends. He speaks openly of his pride in and love for his son and others.

Violence

Teen rushes into fights when he feels people close to him are threatened or insulted. Teen breaks hand in a fight. Strong suggestion of sexual assault. Peripheral character dies violently. Teens and adults harass and threaten others over sexual orientation.

Sex

Characters talk about being virgins and getting "laid." Teen wrestles with discomfort over dad starting to date. A parent tells a child she's at risk of growing up to be a stripper. Two men kiss. Teen recalls encountering adults undressed and making out.

Language

Teens curse casually and freely, and there's strong language on nearly every page (though the main character makes a point of not saying "f--k"). Vulgar language is also used to insult and harass targets. Profanity includes variations on "ass," "a--hole," "bastard," "bitch," "bulls--t," "crap," "damn," "faggot," "f--k," "hell," "pissed," "queer," "s--t," and "sucks," plus Mexican-American slang including "maricón," "pinche," "pocho," and "puto."

Consumerism

A few brand mentions including Facebook, Band-Aids, and iPhone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Parent has history of drinking and driving, including arrest. One character's parent and siblings are drug addicts. Teen doesn't use drugs because he doesn't like how they affect him, but he wants to know what it's like to be drunk. Teens occasionally drink alcohol, sometimes provided by adults; on one occasion they drink wine to excess (and one greatly regrets the intense hangover that results). Parent's smoking is presented as sign of emotional stress.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a beautifully written novel exploring big themes including death, loss, forgiveness, violence, homophobia, and ethnic identity. It's comfortable terrain for author Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), and he handles the weighty material with sensitivity. The main character is very close to his adoptive, gay father, but other parental relationships are marked by emotional abuse, neglect, and absence. Several teens lose close family members to illness or accidents. Despite all this heavy subject matter, the resounding message is a hopeful one about building families and loving connections and finding faith and hope. Teens talk about kissing and virginity, and homosexuality makes both teens and adults targets of harassment. The novel tackles touchy issues frankly, but an apparent sexual assault is addressed very vaguely. Some teens use profanity freely, making this more appropriate for an older audience than the publisher recommends. Education is deeply valued, and the teens are highly motivated to do well in school and succeed in college.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written by1975taylor January 17, 2018

Benjamin Alire Sáenz does it again!

I had no idea what this book was about when I bought it, all I knew was that Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an amazing author. Sáenz uses “text talk” reminiscent of ea... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byOpal12 October 4, 2017

Benjamin Alire Sáenz delivers a heartwarming tale of love that is equal to his previous books.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a beautiful novel about loss, love, and acceptance. The characters are good role models who act like real people, meaning... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE starts with Sal's senior year. He worries big changes are coming -- and not for the better. He's always felt at home as a white boy raised by his gay Mexican-American single dad and loving extended family. But now Sal's suddenly wondering about his biological dad and torn over learning more about his dead mother. He's started responding to taunts and minor threats with his fists, and his anger scares him. And he's heartsick to see his beloved grandmother dying of cancer. Big changes also disrupt the lives of his closest friends: longtime bestie Samantha, who has a rocky relationship with her mom, and Fito, whose mother is lost to drug addiction. Through it all, Sal turns to his family for strength and hope.

Is it any good?

Despite moments of extraordinary drama and very short chapters, Benjamin Alire Sáenz's moving novel about an adopted teen trying to figure out where he belongs progresses at a glacial pace. But patient readers who stick with The Inexplicable Logic of My Life will be rewarded with remarkable characters and relationships and a sincere message about finding hope in times of darkness and uncertainty.

Sáenz beautifully captures the camaraderie of adolescent friendships, from affectionate teasing to deep philosophical discussions. Texting reinforces the close tie between Sal and Sam, who sometimes chat via text even when alone together in the same room. Holding the emotional center is Sal's father, whose gentle spirit and fierce compassion show the sustaining power of love. There are precious few certainties in life, Sal grows to understand, but there is a special beauty to letting go and accepting change, however unexpected.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of family in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. How do you define "family"?

  • Does the amount of swearing seem authentic and appropriate to the story?

  • Fito is grateful to an adult for asking him to follow rules for behavior, saying it shows someone cares about him. Are there any rules in your home that you're grateful for?

Book details

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