The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Rating: DNF at 62% – N/A
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
Synopsis: Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.
Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
Before I start with my thoughts on this book, I want to say this: I would still recommend you pick this up. There is a sore lack of diverse and #ownvoices books out there, so I want to support each one being published. This one is no exception. Benjamin Alire Sáenz is also the author of one of my favorite books ever, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I beg you to pick that one up if you haven’t. The biggest reason I didn’t get along with this book was the writing in this particular one, but that is so subjective. So please, give this a go still. I don’t want my review to scare any readers off.
I was insanely excited to read this book. Like I said, Ari and Dante is one of my favorite books of all time. That book really gripped me, and I was so emotionally attached to both of the characters. Needless to say, I was over the moon when I got approved for this copy.
First, let me start on what I liked about the book.
I liked that this book talks about family. The family dynamics were so beautiful, and it made me smile. Salvador was adopted by his father, a Mexican-American guy. Salvador himself is white, but hates it when people say that because it makes him feel like he’s not actually part of their family. Which of course, he is. I really like how that raises some questions, at least it did for me. How someone can still be strongly immersed in one culture, and identify with it. That culture and ethnicity is not always the same, and how they are validated differently. Salvador’s father is an amazing guy, and I want to hug hum forever. I also liked seeing his extended family, such as his mima. Yet this book also included families that weren’t so good, and in different ways. Some are emotionally distant, and others have left their kids to raise themselves.
I liked that this book wasn’t a romance story, but rather one of self-discovery and friendship. Again, friendships are so important to most people, whether “in real life” (I hate that saying) or online. Sam and Salvador have been friends for years, and that’s a beautiful thing to me, to see how much they care about each other.
I liked the diversity here. Well, I didn’t like it, I loved it. I adored reading about Sal’s mima teaching Sam how to make tortilla’s from scratch. I loved watching Vicente (Sal’s dad) make tacos when he was upset. It’s the routine things of your life that calm you, and I found this truly amazing to read about. Then there is diversity of sexuality in here. Sal’s dad is gay, and so is Fito (one of Sal’s friends). I really enjoyed how it showed how comfortable they are with their sexuality, which unfortunately still isn’t possible for everyone out there today. Yet I also think it is important to show the awful side of being “different”: the rude comments, for example. Unfortunately, most LGBTQIA+ people have to deal with this, and I think Sáenz did a great job adding it to his novel.
Those are all reasons for you to read this book. Which is also why I still recommend it to you. But I have to be honest on my blog, and state the reasons I decided to not finish it.
I didn’t like the writing. The sentences were extremely short, and constantly repeated themselves. Honestly, some sentences consisted of only one or two words. And that choppy writing took me out of the story. I find it hard to relate to a character when this type of writing is used, because it doesn’t feel like I am reading his thoughts? It feels more like Sal is a robot, and I’m reading what he observes. Because the writing was so hard for me to connect to, it also made it harder to connect to the characters. This story is about Sal’s life. It’s not plot driven whatsoever, it’s entirely character-centered. And for me, getting through a character driven book without being attached to anyone is impossible.
I didn’t like some of the things Sal said or did. I had seem some reviewers state that some of the sentences in here were quite problematic and offensive, which made me curious. After all, it’s an #ownvoices book. I do know that diverse books can still be offensive! No one’s experiences are the same after all, and I was wondering how I would think of this book. And I have to agree that some sentences here were problematic. Such as “for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight”. What does that even mean? Or “One of the great things about Sam was that she didn’t throw like a girl.” NO, NO, NO. And there was also the moment Sam says that Sal “is not like other guys”, which is basically the male equivalent of “you’re not like all the other girls”. I despise it. And lastly, I don’t like how this dealt with attempted rape and sexual assault at all.
Edit: As Cee stated in the comments, I can’t really pass judgment on the sentence ‘for a gay guy, my dad was pretty straight’. This is an #ownvoices book, and can’t speak for Benjamin Alire Sáenz’ experiences, nor the meaning of this sentence. For me, as a straight person, this sentence is hard to understand and seems offensive. I have read quite a few reviews on this book, but I don’t think I have found an #ownvoices review. If you have read this book/sentence, and understand his experiences/what he means by this, I would love to talk about it with you. Or if you have seen a reviewer/the author explain!
I didn’t like Sam. I know, I just said that I loved the fact this book is centered around friendship. And that’s true. I just don’t think their friendship is entirely healthy? She basically badgered him until he told her everything, even things he didn’t want to talk about. I also feel like Sal’s personality got lost in hers. She was pretty much the only think he talked or thought about. You can be great friends without being so dependent on each other…
It’s safe to say that I personally felt disappointed by this. For all the reasons I mentioned above. Yet I’d still say to give it a go. Not just because I want to treasure diverse and #ownvoices books. But also because this author wrote one of my favorite books ever, and I don’t ever want to forget that.