Here is my review for The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Saénz. Buckle up, because this is going to be a very long ride (warning: rant approaching).
CW: attempted rape and successive deaths
From the multi-award-winning author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe comes a gorgeous new story about love, identity, and families lost and found.
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.
- some beautiful quotes
- different approaches on death
- full of stereotypical assumptions about different groups of people, which makes it kinda offensive at some points
- doesn’t deal properly with an attempt of rape
- flat characters
- almost no plot and when there is, it’s repetition from past events
Look, this is going to be kinda difficult for me. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of my favourite books ever and having to admit how terrible The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is just hurts. But it’s necessary, since I can see it being potentially very hurtful to some readers.
Since early on, it was clear to me that this was going to be very problematic. At about 19% in, and in the span of two pages, the phrases “one thing about Sam was that she didn’t throw like a girl” and “Fito’s such a schizophrenic dork” appear. I can’t even begin on how terrible these statements are. They’re extremely offensive and stereotypical. Problem is that those aren’t the only ones. Throughout the book they’re constantly appearing. It’s the “for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight” and the whole discussions about about being a “real” mexican, between others that made me really uncomfortable. I can’t really discuss the portrait of mexican culture and how it influences the lives of these characters (even if I thought some remarks were weird) but as a queer woman with mental health issues, this was kinda hard to get my head around. I even read Aristotle and Dante while also reading Saénz’s new book, to try and figure out if I had not realised of something like this in that first title. But it was as beautiful and touching as I remembered. I can’t believe the same person wrote the two books. It’s like water and wine. I could have understood these statements if they were challenged ahead or even were part of some character’s development. But nop, not even close. They’re just part of the characters.
Unfortunately, this isn’t even the only problem about this book. I don’t want to get too spoilery, since it’s still a bit until this comes out, but let me just tell you that attempted sexual assault is not dealt well. It was something I didn’t really process until I read Brittany’s review (it’s more detailed and spoiler full but I’ll leave the link if anyone is interested). Then I realised how it’s so underplayed. How it’s written to have a character that is furious about what could have happened to their friend feel like the bad guy in the situation! I repeat, a person trying to protect their friend from being around someone who tried to rape them is treated like the bad guy!! And the almost rapist is “forgiven”. I’m just… I can’t. Attempting to rape someone doesn’t become ok even if you apologize! It just isn’t, I’m sorry. You can’t me feel bad for thinking this way.
It is important to also point out the fact that this has death, after death, after death. It is a set point to talk about grief and it’s several forms, what’s probably the main topic of the book, but I think that could have been approached without so much pain. It can be very difficult to some people to read the book because of that, specially when it’s something that could have been avoided easily.
In terms of execution, this book isn’t the best either. The writing has its moments and it’s very quotable too. Of course it all goes down the drain with everything I mentioned above about stereotypes. There’s barely any plot and when there is, it’s all the same. It’s just a cycle of the same kind of events. The characters are a bit flat. The protagonist didn’t really made an impression and the fact that I can even remember his name is amazing to me. His friend, Sam, on the other hand, was terrible. She says she’s not a feminist, that all other girls are bitches and many other “oh god, am I really reading this” attitudes. She’s rude, nosy and obnoxious, without any real development throughout the book. Everything on top of everything just made me not capable of enjoying this book in the slightest.
I’m not familiar with the other work by the author besides Ari and Dante but this book is as disappointing even if you haven’t read anything from him. It’s 2017 and this is kind of content in books and other media is just unacceptable. Even though Ari and Dante will forever be dear to me, I’m not sure how I’ll approach any other work by Saénz. I know it’s dangerous to quote a book before it’s release but another reviewer has tried to talk to the publisher about this and the response wasn’t too helpful so I’m sure it will stay pretty much the same. I wish it didn’t. If this book needed anything, it would sure be a rewrite.
It makes me sad but I won’t be recommending this book. Actually, I would advice not to get near it.
Until next time,