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
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?
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 Logic — Sal’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.