Words exist only in theory. And then one ordinary day you run into a word that exists only in theory. And you meet it face to face. And then that word becomes someone you know. That word becomes someone you hate. And you take that word with you wherever you go. And you can’t pretend it isn’t there.
Life doesn’t make very much sense when you’re a teenager. In fact, even adults find it difficult to understand why or how certain things happen. What is important is that you learn to live with it, and that you figure out how to move forward. This lesson is what Salvador is attempting to learn in Benjamin Alire Saenz‘s The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.
A “white boy” born into a Mexican family, Salvador has lived a happy, unproblematic life with family and friends. Despite being adopted, his identity lies with the family that brought him up, and Salvador has never had a reason to think otherwise. He lives life day by day alongside his best friend Sam and new friend Fito – two kids whose lives are far from normal, at least when compared to Salvador’s. It isn’t until his senior year of high school that Salvador realizes how un-normal his happy life actually is and how much more different it will be by the time he graduates.
At 17, Salvador begins going through changes that make him question is life, his personality, and his belonging. The people and situations that have stabilized him throughout his life begin to change as well, and the safe, happy world he has always known is crumbling. Salvador realizes he will have to learn to cope, adapt, and grow from the unfamiliarity no matter how difficult, unfair, or sad it is. With his family and friends by his side, Salvador learns that life doesn’t always follow logic, but it makes sense in ways we cannot currently understand, and so long as we continue to move forward despite the obstacles, we come out stronger and wiser.
I first discovered Saenz when one of my graduate courses assigned Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe as required reading. Being from a region in South Texas (more south than San Antonio and Corpus), Saenz’s stories of El Paso resonated with me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. As someone from the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso seems like a world away, but in culture, not so much. I felt drawn to the ambiance, the dialogue, and the insight that Saenz gave his story and his characters. Saenz’s stories don’t need a linear/organized/clear plot because they are about life – and our lives aren’t always clear, are they? Events happen and sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, sometimes they are boring, sometimes they are exciting, but they are all significant in shaping who we are and Saenz brings that reality to his books.
From the first page of Aristotle, to the last of Inexplicable, Saenz’s words have made me feel like home culturally, emotionally, and mentally. As I have heard mentioned before, reading Saenz’s work is like relaxing at home on a rainy day – it is comfortable, calm, it makes you feel understood, and it is ordinarily extraordinary.