WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
The Inexplicable Logic of my Life follows Sal as he navigates a year full of changes and what-ifs. College looms threateningly at the horizon; an approaching meteor that promises irreversible change. Familiar bonds feel like well-worn sweaters too dear to part with but with tragedy knocking on his doorstep, letting go is something Sal must learn. In this whirlwind of a year, suddenly faced with a history that haunts and a future that threatens loss, Sal finds himself losing track of himself. A menacing thread of violence has sewed itself into him and jeopardizes the identity he has created for himself. He no longer knows who he is but his loved one’s may have the answer. All he has to do is let himself be loved.
Read the Goodreads summary here.
I picked up The Inexplicable Logic of my Life and I thought, ‘I know exactly what I’m going to read’. After all, coming-of-age and high school are some of the most widely read and the most widely written about topics. What could be new about them? Nothing. And there was indeed, nothing new. Sáenz writes about the anxieties of college bound teenagers, about changing relationships, growing up, learning to move on and learning yourself over and over again.
And yet, I read, I cried and I laughed. There is a reason behind this.
The opening line of the novel captures the feeling that reading this book carries very well. It goes – “ I have a memory that feels like a dream.”
I remember reading this book. I remember the points where I felt frustrated and jubilant and sad. But the memory of those moments feels more like a dream now. It is hazy, overpowered by the feel of it instead of clear instances and images.
The ride was choppy, the beginning slow. Consisting of small instances of daily life, the writing failed to establish the stakes of the story early. Things were changing of course, but they dragged and I could not understand what the point of it was. I kept looking for a hook and then I realized, there wasn’t one.
The Inexplicable Logic of my Life isn’t a story. It’s a life. There is no crazy mix up that leads to an enemies to lovers trope, no over involved neighbor to befriend, no one for the characters to save except their own selves. It does not deal with a situation none of us will ever face but with growth and loss that each of us must see. I admired this about the novel.
What I did not admire was the writing that dominated much of the beginning. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life dashed my hopes of the poetic writing I’m used to from Senz. I felt disenchanted by the short staccato sentences that riddled it. It frustrated me to the point where I almost gave up. However, I’m glad I stuck it out. The writing flow became much smoother somewhere in the middle and I found myself enchanted again.
The Plot and Characters
Senz addresses issues of racial and ethnic identity; the struggles of those who seemingly fit nowhere. It comes up in lighthearted banter between characters but the struggle isn’t diminished at all. The novel also deals with grief, loss, homophobia, drug abuse and child abuse but not once did I feel that it trivialized any of them. The three teenagers at the center – Sal, Sam and Fito face each of them with the finesse of the seventeen year olds they are, which is none. But that is exactly what reaches the reader. Their clumsy but brave attempts at confronting tragedy are touching and real and I adore them all for it. They don’t stand out like characters in other young adult novels. Comparatively, they are very plain but that is what I could resonate with. They seemed real to me in a way other book characters have not.
Moreover, the novel did not have even the hint of a romantic relationship. Nope. Sal is a boy, friends with a girl and their relationship remains strictly platonic. Yet it does not lose charm. It was refreshing. Every relationship Sáenz depicted was magical; filled with love and care that mesmerized. In fact, the bonds depicted are what gives this novel the spark it has. In the absence of a clear hook, the characters and their relationships are what drove it forward.
Much of the focus is on the parent-child bond depicted through Sal and Vicente. The adoration they have for each other is plainly visible and I was delighted to find a supportive parent in Vicente. Those are much in demand in Y.A literature after all!
The book also challenges traditional masculinity. The male characters refuse to be shut into the box of ‘masculinity’ or ‘macho’. I believe that is what made them more humane. That is what made me empathize with them. Their distinct quality wasn’t being a ‘man’, it was being human.
Despite this, the novel still suffers from a case of stereotyping. There aren’t many female characters in it. The one female character in focus falls into all the female stereotypes of ‘one of the boys’. I appreciate the friendship depicted, I loved the fact that there is no romance using this female character and the male protagonist. But I think she caters to male idea of what a modern girl/woman is like instead of delving into the reality of it. This made a rather pleasant book somewhat unpleasant for me.
The Inexplicable Logic of my Life is far from perfect. It has flaws I could look past and those I couldn’t. However, I do think that at the end, it achieved its purpose. It let me experience a journey of grief and loss but made me laugh. It made my heart feel full of warmth and allowed me to believe that everything will be okay.
If you’re a fan of Benjamin Alire Sáenz and look forward to his new books, consider reading about his most anticipated release here.