Have you ever read a book that just fills up your heart like a four course feast of words? That is exactly how I feel about Benjamin Alire Saenz’s latest and greatest, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Ever since reading Saenz’s most notable work (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe) earlier this year, I have just been itching to get back into his simplistic but beautiful prose. While I definitely liked Ari and Dante better, this book far from disappoints.
In it, we follow seventeen-year-old Salvador, a sweetheart of a boy whose mother died when he was three, thus allowing him to be adopted into a hugely loyal and loving Mexican-American family. Sal knows that he hit the jackpot with his father–a gay artist named Vicente with a heart of gold and a penchant for collecting wayward teens–but as his life gets more complicated and his beloved grandmother starts dying, Sal begins to wonder more about his biological parents, his heritage, and his place in the world.
Additionally, we also get to explore the relationship between Sal and his lifelong best friend Sam, or Samantha. Sam and Sal have the kind of bond that most people only dream of having. They are like siblings that got to choose each other; who would choose each other, time and time again. I loved that their relationship was deep and meaningful and completely unromantic. It was honestly so refreshing to read a young adult contemporary book with absolutely no romance, at least not for the teens, anyway.
This book is unique in that it has no real plot beyond the random (and somewhat tragic) events that just so happen to be unfolding in Sal’s life. It ends just as abruptly as it begins. Also, there is no true antagonist unless you want to get really deep about it and say that the antagonist is death. Nevertheless, it remains a thoughtful and engaging read peppered with meaty words that say so much with so little and characters that feel far too genuine to be real. In fact, that was a point of contention with me at first. I kept finding myself irritated and insisting that these characters were too unrealistically kind-hearted, but to my surprise/delight, the more I read, the more I bought into it. I wanted to believe that people like Sal and his family could exist.
It also bears mentioning that I am absolutely head over heels in love with the desert setting. El Paso is not exactly Arizona (my home and favorite place in the world), but growing up in a border state is such a rich and vivid experience that I rarely ever see represented well in fiction. From the way he describes the heat and the Mexican influences to the magical smell of rain in the air during summer monsoon, it all just sunk right into my heart like a warm knife through butter.
To be fair, the book had plenty of faults too. The pacing was odd, the words could be preachy, Sam and Sal texted in the most annoying fashion imaginable…I could go on, but at the end of the day, this is a lovely story that is going to stick with me for quite some time. It’s not like anything I would have normally picked up, but I’m so glad that I gave it a chance. This is the kind of book that if given to the right person at the right time, could absolutely change lives. Highly recommended for anyone who has lingering pain in their heart.