Oh my, what a feels-fest The Inexplicable Logic of My Life was for me! It’s Benjamin Alire Saenz’s second book*, following Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and, like the first book, is quiet and elegant but also packs a walloping emotional punch.
Now, I have seen a critique that the beginning of the book goes slowly. And I can see that as fair. But I can also see that the pacing is actually very deliberate, as Saenz draws us into Sal’s world and his emotional landscape. At the same time, this is not a book that’s ever going to be for a reader who’s primarily plot-driven. It’s not that nothing happens here–in fact, there are big, seismic life changes. But the focus remains firmly on the characters, rather than the events.
And in fact, a lot of this book is about showing care and complexity in portraying people who are often overlooked, like Sal but also Sam and Fito, also Sal’s dad. This is perhaps a bit of an emotional spoiler, but I’m still going to share one of my favorite quotes:
“It was exactly like Sam had said, about how we had to see people because sometimes the world made us invisible. So we had to make each other visible. Words were like that too. Sometimes we didn’t see words.”
Sal starts off alone, but he doesn’t end up there; he starts off in some ways invisible, but over the course of the book, he becomes seen. And I loved the family that grows–found families being one of my favorite things anyway, but especially here, where it’s not easy or simple but is true.
There’s a lot more going on, including identity, the repetition of family patterns and history, learning how to see your parents as people, grief, the importance of friendship. But what weaves it all into a cohesive whole is the strength of Sal’s narration, and his relationship to the world, to his friends and family, and ultimately himself.
* Kate has alerted me that this is in fact VERY WRONG–Inexplicable Logic being BAS’s FIFTH YA book.