Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s newest book, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, taps into the same vein of truth and love that delighted Aristotle and Dante fans.
Right, upfront let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is not a sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. A sequel to that book, There Will Be Other Summers is in the works, but The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a completely original story. A story that centers on a teenage boy named Sal, his adoptive father, and his best friend Samantha.
If you were routinely organizing books and sorting them into classifications, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life would probably be labeled as a young adult novel or a coming of age story. But in all honesty a genre choice that uninspired doesn’t do this book its due justice.
Up until now Sal’s had a relatively simple life. Despite being the only white person within his Mexican-American family, he’s always felt completely included and secure. He’s had an extremely close relationship with his adoptive gay father. And his best friend Samantha has been by his side since they were small children. However, at the beginning of the book, things are slowly starting to change for Sal. In the way things always change for those who are growing up.
“I was in my room thinking about things. Life had a logic all its own. People talked about the highway of life, but I thought that was crap. Highways were nice and paved, and they had signs telling you which way to go. Life wasn’t like that at all. There were days when great things happened and everything was beautiful and perfect, and then, just like that, everything could go straight to hell. It was like getting drunk. At first it felt kinda nice and all relaxed. And all of a sudden the room was spinning, and you were throwing up, and, well, maybe life was a little like that.”
As I’ve already made clear, Inexplicable Logic isn’t a sequel to Aristotle and Dante but the books do share similar tones and a few themes. Because Benjamin Alire Sáenz is who he is, the Mexican-American perspective will always be infused in his books. With that perspective comes a unique commentary on the relationship between culture and identity, belonging and not belonging, being whole but never whole enough. That examination exists in Ari and Dante and it exists in Inexplicable Logic as well.
That conversation becomes a little more fleshed out in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life as well. Within this book, Sal gets to examine what it means to be a family, a Catholic, a friend, and a man. So although the conversation about what it means to be a Mexican-American is happening, there are many ways in which the concept of identity is explored.
This spoiler free review will refrain from revealing any of the plot details within The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, but it’s safe to say that some heavy stuff happens to Sal and his friends as the book unfolds. Within other novels these darker moments of reality may drag a reader down and make them feel pretty hopeless. But Sáenz’s optimistic view of young people — and adults in general — shines through and lifts the reader up.
Actually, perhaps optimistic isn’t the correct word. It isn’t that Sáenz ignores the fact that people are complicated and messy and don’t always do the right thing. But he makes it clear that those things don’t make people disposable nor does it mean we necessarily stop loving them. It’s hard. Life is hard. But with friends, family, and our ever evolving self acceptance we can we make life worth living.
’Living is an art not a science’
Technically speaking, Sáenz writes with a style that is incredibly readable and uncomplicated. His clean sentence structures and direct use of language allows younger audiences access to complex themes. That being said, Sáenz never speaks down to his YA audience nor does he underestimate their ability to rise to the occasion. This makes his writing enjoyable to a whole spectrum of ages.
A part of me wishes that all of Sáenz’s books were delivered without blurbs, reviews, or expectations of any kind. Placing his stories into a specific genre or age group severely limits who initially picks up the books. If we could just find a way to deliver these stories to the world without preconceived notions it would invite so many new readers into the fold. This barrier is a detriment to all because Sáenz does a remarkable job at subverting internal expectations. With those subversions comes curiosity, understanding, and empathy. Things the world needs; especially right now.