ARC/Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (2017)
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 464 pages
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

Review

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is my second book from Benjamin Alire Sáenz, the first being the very popular Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which, incidentally, I also wasn’t in love with but actually liked better. This book is the story of Salvador, a sweet, sensitive boy who lives with his gay father, as he goes through a lot of life-altering changes.

Very much character-driven, The Inexplicable Logic is a bit of a philosophical book, with introspective characters who reflect on thought-provoking topics such as death, grief, religious faith, friendship, identity, and the age old debate of nature versus nurture. In the midst of all the life changes coming his way, Sal finds that he is unable to understand himself any longer and wonders:

“What mattered most? What was it that made my engine run — the genetic characteristics I got from my biological father or the characteristics I acquired from my father, the man who raised me?”

Truthfully, I should’ve learned my lesson from Aristotle and Dante: I’m just not the right person for this kind of book/writing. It’s too repetitive, too monotonous, and just not at all efficient enough for me. We get snippets of Sal’s life that I don’t really see the point of (although arguably not all scenes need a point) and the book really, really dragged for me. Occasionally it does hit its stride and I could fall into the story, but most of the time, getting through it was something that I actively had to work on instead of naturally gravitate towards. 🙈

I also wasn’t entirely comfortable with the way this book brushes off sexist stereotypes. I’m not the best at recognising problematic representation, but I’ve seen several Goodreads reviewers draw attention to these things so I feel like I should at least mention it. Several passages in the book weren’t written with much awareness, for example:

“One of the great things about Sam was that she didn’t throw like a girl. […] My dad taught her that — he taught both of us. You know, for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight.”

Granted, this was Sal’s thought and not something that he voiced, but I feel like this was a missed opportunity to call out sexist thought and reinforce a lesson about stereotypes. It also happened with culture, not just gender, so it wasn’t an isolated incident. Additionally, I also felt like [spoiler] sexual assault [/spoiler] was dismissed too easily, despite the gravity of the situation. This review explains it better.

Now that that’s out of the way, there were actually quite a few things that I enjoyed. The family representation was top-notch in The Inexplicable LogicSal’s father was the absolute best, and I commend Saenz’s ability to fashion a character so lovable, he’s the father I think every YA character would be lucky to have. Sal’s friendship with both Sam and Fito was also incredibly realistic: tumultuous, dramatic, but also full of deep (platonic) love. Huzzah to no unnecessary romance! 🙆

“I know you sometimes think that people are like books. But our lives don’t have neat logical plots, and we don’t always say beautiful, intelligent things like the characters in a novel. That’s not the way life is.”

To conclude: The Inexplicable Logic is not my kind of book, but fans of Aristotle and Dante would probably enjoy this one as well. It’s got the same mild, reflective tone, the same family, parental and friendship presence, and the same philosophical angle.

* I received an ARC of THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and Clarion Books via NetGalley.

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47 thoughts on “ARC/Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

  1. Sorry to hear you weren’t the biggest fan of this Reg! I personally loved Ari And Dante because the whole coming of age element always gets to me so hopefully when I read this, I do enjoy it because occasionally philosophical books are a nice break from a more fast paced read! But nonetheless, great review and I felt you reviewed it quite fairly too!

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  2. It’s so refreshing coming across someone who doesn’t love both of these books so much. I actually started listening to Aristotle & Dante via audible because Lin-Manuel Miranda was narrating it and I just could not get into the story or writing – I kept finding myself irritated with the constant repetition of certain phrases. Maybe this kind of story/writing just isn’t for us!

    This was a great review though and helps me deciding not to pick this book up to see if I would enjoy it more than Aristotle & Dante. But then I never continued listening shortly after part 2 of the book (if I remember correctly).

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    • Thank you! It’s such a shame – I don’t think this book will be as heralded as Ari and Dante is, but Ari and Dante is definitely kind of a “classic” in YA lit and I just didn’t really like it. I mean, I enjoyed bits of it but I probably would never reread it again because it was kind of a drag to go through, haha. I can only imagine the frustration with its audiobook… you can’t really skim without losing yourself. 😛

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  3. Reading your review, I’m convinced that I’m never picking up this book. I really didn’t like Aristotle and Dante, for the sole reason that it wasn’t ‘my kind of book’ and the author’s writing style didn’t impress me at all. So it’s highly likely that I won’t enjoy this one either.
    I’ve also read a few reviews claiming that the book perpetuates gender stereotypes, and I definitely don’t want to read that. Great review!

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    • Yeah, I’d say that if you didn’t enjoy Aristotle and Dante, this one would be an even bigger miss for you. I enjoyed Ari and Dante though the writing style wasn’t my thing, and this book was just a bit of a disappointment. :/

      Thank you! I think you could argue that the author probably didn’t mean to make those stereotypes, but it’s definitely a missed opportunity imo.

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  4. I haven’t read Aristotle and Dante book but I have heard rave reviews about that one so I picked it up but the writing is monotonous and the gender stereotyping is really bothering me.And Sam ‘s character,I just don’t like her at all.I am 200 pages in and I want to finish it but I can’t get through it 😦

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    • Sam can be a hard character to like! I didn’t hate her, but I have to say that I didn’t much like her either… my favourite is probably Vicente, Sal’s dad, but he’s just a lovely character through and through.

      Aww, do you reckon you’re going to DNF it? It took me ages to finish as well and I’d say if you’re not into it just drop it. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, but it’s good to have another perspective. I’m looking forward to reading it because I did like Ari & Dante, but maybe this one won’t be able to live up to it. We’ll see 🙂

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  6. I haven’t read any Saenz books yet. In general around the bookish blog world people seem to be very into him, but I always love hearing an opposing opinion.

    I feel like these books probably aren’t for me right now. I am in something of a slump and it doesn’t sound like they would help at all.

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    • I’m definitely the black sheep with Saenz’s books – his writing style is just not as economical as I’d have liked! And yeah, I really wouldn’t recommend it if you’re in a slump. Faster-paced, more plot-driven books are usually better for those, in my experience.

      Hope you find the right book for you soon. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely review, Reg! ❤ I completely understand that this book isn't for everyone, it's very character driven and the fact that there is basically no plot can make this a pretty long read, especially given that it's more than 400 pages long :/ I enjoyed it but I understand it's not for everyone. Where I completely agree with you is on the sexist stereotypes and the, well, the particular event you mentioned here in spoilers…this made me so mad :/

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  8. Great review for this book Reg, it’s just a shame it wasn’t one you enjoyed that much. I guess if you weren’t a fan of Aristotle and Dante maybe this wasn’t the book for you, and in that case I hope the next book you pick up is one you enjoy more. 🙂
    I haven’t seen many reviews for this book but I think the rating tends to depend on whether the reviewer enjoys this kind of story/character development. It seems like there were still parts you enjoyed though, the representation in this book sounds brilliant and we need more positive family/friend relationships in YA books so it’s good to see that in this book as well.
    Again great review Reg! 😀

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    • Thanks, Beth! Yeah, it just wasn’t my kind of writing so it wasn’t my kind of book at all – after all, writing plays a HUGE part in every story. 🙂

      Yeah, I definitely think so. I can see why others would love this book because some elements of it were done very well. The only thing that I reaaaally couldn’t handle, even beyond the writing style, was just the stereotypes – I felt like that was a huge missed opportunity and a bit of a misstep.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review, Reg! See, I loved Ari & Dante but didn’t completely enjoy this one. I have a lot of mixed feelings toward it. I definitely agree with you about it having dragged on at times. And then the stereotypes and what you put in the spoiler brackets, I was not at all happy about either of those things too. But yeah, the friendship and family aspects were so amazing and I wish we could see more of that in YA because I loved it. 😊

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  10. I read Ari & Dante this year and loved it, despite it’s slower pace, so I was REALLY excited for this one. I’ve seen a ton of reviews similar to this though so I’m definitely going to go in with lowered expectations when I pick it up. Brilliant review, Reg ♥

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    • Yeees, I think lowered expectations are definitely the way to go with this book! It’s just not as good as Aristotle and Dante (though, again, that one also isn’t my favourite thing). I hope you enjoy it better than I did, Lauren. ✨

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  11. After reading Aristotle and Dante, I am not sure I will be picking up any more of Saenz’s books… I can see why some people would like Saenz’s style, it just isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve also seen a few reviews calling out problematic issues like the ones you highlighted. Such a shame.

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    • I feel exactly the same way! I wasn’t a big fan of Ari and Dante too – I appreciate the themes but didn’t love the writing. Same as this one, and add to that all the problematic elements… yeah, it just didn’t really work out. ☹️

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  12. Really wonderful review, Reg! I did quite like Ari & Dante, and I managed to hit the halfway-mark in this book before I had to give up my ARC to the person I borrowed it from, but I did notice a few problematic issues. The passage you highlighted was one that really stuck out, as well as the passage where an outsider is referred to as a “schizophrenic dork” or something along those lines. I’m still interested in reading this, despite all the issues that have been pointed out – I understand that it’s from Sal’s perspective, but like you said, that doesn’t really make a difference if the -isms are pointed out in-text.

    Again, great review. Sorry this wasn’t your cup of tea. 😦

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  13. I keep hearing awful things about this book, and how it speaks of mental illness, LGBTQ people and whatnot. It would have been great if it set it up with people being terrible human beings, and then the lead tackles these issues and says “Hey, this isn’t right.” UGH. I really freaking want this book just for the cover though. </333

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    • I know! I just feel like it’s a HUGE missed opportunity, especially because if you remove those issues the book actually does quite well re: cultural representation and family dynamics. 😅

      The cover IS beautiful, though, and I know some people do love the story. Do you think you’ll actually get the book?

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