Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Pub: March 2017
I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review
Most of the time I don’t go in expecting much from books. I don’t want to get my hopes up and then while reading watch them crash and burn in the desert. It’s a good thing I don’t do that because my hopes would have exploded upon landing in the Sonoran Desert after reading this book.
Sal has always had a place in his adopted Mexican-American family. However, his history is reaching out and encroaching on his mind, all the while life-altering events force him and his best friend Sam to confront head on issues of family, friendship, love, loss, and grief.
Sal is confused. Who he was before looks like a stranger. If the person he was before, wasn’t who he truly was, then who was he?
I want to get this out there – I liked what the book was about, but I didn’t like how it was executed. For a lack of better words, it could have been better.
It took some getting used to, but I eventually liked Saenz’s writing style. This book is character-driven so it warranted a more introspective and thoughtful voice. Sal’s thoughts and feelings and his difficulties coming to understand those thoughts and feelings was shown quite well.
A prominent subject and theme of this book was relationships: family, friendship, and romantic.
Family is very important to Sal and everyone, particularly his father and Mima, are held in special regard. They love him and he loves them. Their care and affection was displayed throughout the novel and it was really lovely to see/read.
His relationship with them and how their love is felt made him question the Nature v. Nurture aspect he had been juggling with throughout the story. What makes him, him? The family who raised him or the DNA he received from people he doesn’t remember and doesn’t know.
It’s why he hates being called a “white boy” so much. The phrase is thrown around as an insult, because it makes him feel alienated from the only family he’s ever known.
The friendships in this book was also touching (but only barely). His relationship with his best friend, Samantha, is questionable at best, but they love each other a lot (supposedly). Their friendship circle extends to Fito, a fellow classmate with a bad home life. What I thought was interesting was how Sal’s father, and by extension the Silva family, take in Sam and Fito as well, making them a part of their extended family.
Now onto the things I disliked. Much of my dislike for this book surrounds the character, Samantha Diaz. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Sal is friends with her. Sam is rude, mean, nosy, likes to be in everyone’s business, dramatic (in a look at me kind of way), insensitive, bossy (not the “leadership” kind of bossy). She’s literally the worst. She calls other girls “bitches” and she doesn’t have any other friends except Sal, and I’m here thinking, “well, it’s cause you’re a crappy person.”
Sal and Sam have a thing for words. The quote in the graphic above is said by Sal. You’d think since they have such an appreciation and fascination with words, that they’d be more careful with them. Particularly, Sal. However, Sam flings words around willy-nilly, and Sal lets her, despite his feelings toward it. Calling people, “bitches” and “schizophrenic dorks” is not cute or quirky, it’s insulting. It doesn’t make sense to me that these two teens, who have such a thoughtful father-figure, and know the power of words, are okay with saying phrases like that.
Another example, she calls him “white boy” even though he’s expressed to her that he dislikes when anyone calls him that.
Another issue I had was how Sam never allowed Sal to feel and express himself. He’s hesitant to share things, particularly about his anger, because he worries she’ll think differently of him or stop loving him, which is reasonable in a sense, but I fear it stems from Sam’s own actions of dismissing his feelings. One time, she got angry at him and he simply told her to calm down and she called him an “emotional anorexic”. There again, with the poor use of words, and dismissing him.
Sal is going through a lot of introspection and emotional changes. Sam tells him he’s beating himself up to much. It’s not who he is. He asks, “How do you know?”. Apparently, she just knows and he goes along with it.
There are just a lot of issues that could have been challenged throughout this book. And with plenty of pages to do it. In a 400+ page book, you’d think Sam (and Sal) would learn to remove stereotypical words from their vocabulary, refrain from degrading others, but no. There was also plenty of room to examine the issue of sexual assault, but nope.
In the end, I disliked The Inexplicable Logic of My Life more than I liked it. It’s a touching coming-of-age novel, that focuses on a barrier/stepping point in an adolescent’s life. Senior year, college, a change in family dynamics. However, I can’t get over how poorly “best friend” Sam treats Sal and how he never challenges her to be a better person (relationships go both ways people).
Reader’s Discretion is advised for: mentions of drug use, domestic & familial abuse, sexual assault (& attempted rape), deaths in the family.
Affiliate Link: Book Depository