What should I read?

  • Kat Janeczek

Friday, June 09, 2017

By Kat Janeczek,
Senior Assistant in the Children’s & Young Adult Department, Forbes Library, Northampton

“The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” is a young-adult novel full of uncommonly true and complex characters, and brimming with love. “Never underestimate the people who love you,” warns one of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s characters, and the story that unfolds is a testament to that. The book centers on Sal, a teenage boy heading into his senior year of high school. Sal is facing his own anger issues, learning to take care of his friends as they experience tragedy, and navigating loss for the first time. At the same time, he’s working through his identity as the adopted white son of a gay Mexican man. Love of many different forms permeates Sal’s life and colors the story, even as he struggles with his emotions and the changing circumstances around him.

Though the pace of the book is slow and deliberate, I found myself invested in Sal and the people of his world from the start. His father is an especially brilliant character, and Sáenz shows us the many ways in which he illuminates Sal’s life and the lives of others. At one point, Sal describes what his dad calls “whistling in the dark.” In the face of a family tragedy, Sal’s extended family is gathered in his Mima’s living room: “And then everyone in the room started laughing. My dad and my uncles and aunts — if there's one thing they knew how to do, it was laugh. My dad called that sort of behavior whistling in the dark.”

Sáenz is a poet, and his language reveals this, just as it did in his previous, equally beautiful YA novel, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.” Every aspect of this book feels clear and true, from the emotional complexity of Sal, to the description of grief. Sáenz’s language illustrates the deep sweetness between characters, like Sal and his best friend, Sam: “ ‘If we’d never met, then there would be only three seasons.’ ‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘Am I supposed to guess which season?’ ‘Yup.’ I thought a moment — then I smiled. ‘Spring. Then there would be no spring.’ ”

Lately, though the days have gotten longer and brighter, I’ve needed to think a lot about whistling in the dark. “The Inexplicable Logic of
My Life” is more than a typical tale of growing up. It’s a call to love, and to love deeply, and it’s a reminder of the beauty in the minutes, days, and years as they pass.