BookBrowse Reviews The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Saenz

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The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

by Benjamin Saenz

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Saenz X
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Saenz
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2017, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag

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A gentle, loving look at the universal question of belonging.

Once we leave our teenage years it can be hard to remember how intensely we were able to feel things, while simultaneously learning that it was even possible to feel so much. Benjamin Alire Saenz does just that in his young adult novel, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. The story follows Salvador "Sal" Silva and his two best friends as they navigate their senior year of high school, each coping with their own tragedies - but together - while also facing the transition into their adult lives.

While the themes of adolescent transition and loss have been handled many times by many authors, few manage to evoke not only the emotions of adolescence, but the myriad pluralities of identities that embody modern America. Sal was adopted into a Mexican-American family by a gay single father, and the external and internal conflicts that evolve as Sal comes of age drive the plot. Along with his struggle to reconcile who he is as the result of who raised him, with his growing awareness and need to know about his biological parents, Sal is also dealing with the death of his beloved grandmother, the woman who was, in many ways, a mother to him. The emotional turmoil Sal faces is compounded by equally difficult circumstances in the lives of his two best friends, Sam and Fito. As each of the three deals with the loss of a parent in some fashion, Saenz asks the reader to consider not only what it means to become ourselves or understand where we come from, but what it means to belong to and build a family.

Saenz's presentation is powerful not because of the questions it asks, but because of what the reader is forced to feel. Those who are sharing the same stage of life as Sal, Sam, and Fito, and grappling with the same issues of identity, transition, and finding one's place in the world, will find their lives, concerns, problems, hopes, fears, and concerns reflected in a recognizable world, but one that is well crafted and gives them the space necessary to both feel and reflect. Adult readers will be reminded of the powerful struggle of the search for identity, as well as the extent of the problems teenagers face; beyond peer pressure and bullying, Saenz reminds adults that food insecurity, relationship abuse, homophobia, absentee parents, and grief and loss are very real problems that have life-long implications, especially if those who are experiencing these things become isolated. The story crosses boundaries between age groups, cultures, and identities, and by delving into anger, joy, pain, and hope, it reminds us that in a world that works so hard to divide us, we are all ultimately bound through love.

This review was originally published in March 2017, and has been updated for the November 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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