A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Clarion Books
- Publication date: March 7, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 06, 2020
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