Study Guide

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World Summary

Marcelo Sandoval has a pretty good life, at least at the beginning of the book. He may have some kind of Asperger's-type syndrome, but he's happy. He goes to Paterson, a school for special-needs kids, and he straight up loves it. He's just gotten a job working with Paterson's equine-therapy horses, he lives in a nice house (well, actually, he lives in a fancy tree house in the backyard), and, best of all, he hears his own imaginary internal music (or IM) whenever he wants. In short, life's pretty sweet.

Enter Arturo, Marcelo's dad. He's been there all along, of course, but now he's about to throw a giant tire iron in the spokes of Marcelo's life. You know that job at the stables? Yeah, Arturo's not down. He thinks that what Marcelo needs is a dose of the "real world," which amounts to one of two options: either he goes to Oak Ridge High instead of Paterson in the fall, or he gives up his job at the stables for the summer and comes to work at Arturo's law firm, Sandoval and Holmes. If Marcelo does well at the firm—and "well" is defined by Arturo, of course—he can go back to Paterson for his senior year.

Marcelo chooses the law firm, though he's less than pumped. He'll be working in the mailroom with Jasmine, the manager. Jasmine's got it together: she's only two years older than Marcelo, but she's running the place. She's not happy about the situation either because she wanted to hire a girl named Belinda, but Arturo forced Marcelo on her.

What really makes the law firm awful, however, is Wendell Holmes, the son of Arturo's partner Stephen. Wendell's just graduated high school and is going to Harvard in the fall. He's already become the captain of the squash team, he has a yacht, and he's pretty much a pompous, womanizing jerk, just like his dad.

He wants to hook up with Jasmine, who can't stand him, because she has a brain. So Wendell, scheming cad that he is, seizes the opportunity to manipulate Marcelo. He'll pretend to be Marcelo's friend and will tell Arturo good things about his son, which will mean Marcelo can go back to Paterson in the fall and get out of his way. All he wants in return is for Marcelo to a) do his work for him, and b) lure Jasmine onto the yacht so he can put the moves on her. (Marcelo eventually wises up and refuses, which, whew.)

Marcelo's been at the law firm just long enough to become friends with Jasmine, who turns out to be a very smart, music-loving, kindred spirit, when Wendell goes to Arturo and drips some sleaze on him. And by "sleaze," we mean "charm," but the sleaziest possible kind. He wants Marcelo to work with him (read: for him) on the Vidromek case. Vidromek is Sandoval and Holmes's biggest client, so Arturo's totally jazzed. Marcelo wants nothing to do with it, but of course Arturo thinks this is majorly real-world and will hear none of his protests.

Marcelo grudgingly gets to work organizing the Vidromek files. He's doing as he was told, tossing duplicates in the trash, when he realizes that one of the things he's thrown away is a picture of a severely deformed girl. Her face has been ripped halfway off by shattered glass. Oh, and did we mention that Vidromek makes windshields that were supposed to shatter into harmless pieces on impact? Yeah, not so much.

Our hero suddenly comprehends suffering in a way he never has before. Sure, he's known disabled kids at Paterson and dying kids at the hospital where his mother, Aurora, works as an oncology nurse. He's also obsessively studied world religions, most notably with his mentor Rabbi Heschel (even though Marcelo's Catholic). But he's never seen anything quite like this. He knows Sandoval and Holmes have wronged this girl in the name of protecting Vidromek, and he knows he has to help her get justice.

He and Jasmine put on their Sherlock Holmes hats and do a little digging. Long story short, the girl's name is Ixtel Jaetz, and her lawsuit against Vidromek is being handled by Geronimo "Jerry" Garcia, another Mexican-American attorney who was Arturo's classmate at Harvard Law. It's the classic good guy vs. bad guy tale: Garcia remained true to his ideals of helping people, while Arturo became corrupted by greed and went the big-money route. Garcia wrote to Arturo and asked him to settle out of court so Ixtel could get reconstructive surgery, but no dice: Arturo wrote a mean letter back and basically told Garcia to shove it.

Despite knowing that doing the right thing will condemn him to public high school and could financially ruin his father, Marcelo finds a file saying that Vidromek knew the windshields were defective, and he turns the info over to Garcia. Arturo has no choice but to settle out of court. When Marcelo finally meets Ixtel, she thanks him profusely for helping her, and he knows he's made the right decision.

It's not exactly a happy ending, but one thing makes it happier: he and Jasmine are soulmates, and they decide to move to Vermont together. The book ends with the sweetest kiss ever—Jasmine plants one on Marcelo's cheek—and the IM, which Marcelo had lost when he entered the real world, floods over him once again.

  • Chapter 1

    • You couldn't get a much more attention-grabbing beginning than we get here: two doctors are rolling Marcelo into the tube of a brain-scanning machine (it doesn't say what kind, but based on the description, it sounds like an MRI).
    • Even more interesting? They're doing it because they want to see pictures of the imaginary music in his head.
    • Yup, our friend Marcelo has a strange condition that lies somewhere on the autism/Asperger's spectrum. In his case, this means he not only suffers from emotional and communication difficulties, but also has the constant presence of his "internal music," or "IM."
    • Toby, the rock-and-roll brain-scan tech, plays real music for Marcelo inside the machine and compares the brain regions that light up when he listens to it to the brain regions that light up when listening to the IM. 
    • Today's musical selections are "The Calling" by Santana, followed by Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.
    • Sure enough, Toby and the doctor see different lit-up areas. With the real music, the temporal lobes in the front of the brain are glowing, but with the IM, which Marcelo says comes from the back of his head, just above his neck, it's the hypothalamus and limbic system.
    • After the scans, Marcelo goes to meet his mom Aurora in the lobby. He's ready for her to take him to Paterson, his school, where he works with the horses. 
    • There was a new foal born last night, and Marcelo's ready to go meet it.
    • But first, Aurora has a chat with Dr. Malone. Basically, she's asking indirect questions about whether Marcelo should leave Paterson and spend his senior year at Oak Ridge High with "regular" kids.
    • Dr. Malone thinks Paterson is good for Marcelo. Marcelo does, too. 
    • And now, it's time to go meet that baby horse.
  • Chapter 2

    • Paterson, at last. Stable boy Marcelo is psyched. 
    • Aurora's still on this Oak Ridge High thing, though. She keeps pushing the subject, and Marcelo keeps pushing back. 
    • Turns out this whole regular-high-school thing is the brainchild of Marcelo's dad Arturo. He's the one who wants his son to go to school with the regular kids.
    • Luckily, Marcelo has a policy of not speaking out of reverence whenever he enters the Paterson grounds, so he cuts the conversation short.
    • Harry, who runs the stable, shows Marcelo the Haflinger pony foal born to a horse named Frieda. Marcelo is instantly in love. (Humans? Hard to love. Ponies? Straight up Marcelo mush.)
    • Marcelo names the horse Fritzy (a Prussian name, since Haflingers come from Prussia) while Aurora pulls Harry aside for her second secretive chat of the day.
    • Marcelo knows something bad is happening, and on the ride home with Aurora he senses that it's about to come to a head.
    • Sure enough, Aurora tells Marcelo that Arturo wants to talk to him that night, and to be open-minded about what his father has to say.
    • Marcelo says he'll listen, but Arturo's wasting his breath. 
    • So Aurora reminds Marcelo that Arturo never liked Paterson, but he's let Marcelo attend since first grade, and he was never keen on Marcelo's obsessive interest, but he's allowed Marcelo to meet with Rabbi Heschel every other week for five years, even though they're Catholic.
    • Aurora insists that Marcelo trust that Arturo only wants the best for him, but Marcelo has trouble even comprehending the word "trust."
    • Marcelo tells Aurora he'll listen, even though he already knows Arturo is wrong.
  • Chapter 3

    • Marcelo and Aurora get home, and Arturo's outside grilling steaks. Marcelo hopes to avoid him, but no dice. Arturo wants to talk.
    • Here's the gist of Arturo's proposal: give up the job at the stable, go to work in the mail room of Arturo's law firm for the summer, and if Marcelo succeeds in "the real world," he can choose whether to go to Paterson or Oak Ridge in the fall.
    • Marcelo's question is obvious: what does it take to succeed, and who determines whether or not he's done so?
    • Arturo, of course. Duh.
    • Marcelo wishes people could just understand how he thinks instead of always trying to get him to think like them, but Arturo's the king of not understanding.
    • He's all about the rules.
    • Marcelo takes his dog Namu and heads for the tree house where he sleeps. We're thinking it's pretty cool to sleep in a tree house, but guess who disagrees? Arturo.
    • Marcelo is, he says, getting too old to sleep in a tree house—as if there is such a thing.
  • Chapter 4

    • The history of the tree house: Marcelo's big sister Yolanda suggested it when Marcelo was 10. She thought it would help him get over his fear of sleeping somewhere other than in his own room, in his own house.
    • Because she's the best big sister ever, Yolanda got her high school shop class to build the tree house as a class project. 
    • Aurora drops in on the tree house that night to halfheartedly apologize for Arturo's plan. Marcelo reiterates how much he wanted to work at Paterson; Aurora reiterates the "real world" thing.
    • But wait—there's Jasmine! She's the manager of the mailroom at the law firm, and she's only 19, two years older than Marcelo. Aurora seems to think Marcelo's the type who gets excited about human friends. 
    • Have this kid's parents ever met him?
    • Aurora reminds Marcelo of the first time she took him to work with her in the pediatric oncology ward of the hospital, where she's a nurse, and how he got along with the dying kids and they all loved him. 
    • She was worried at first about how he'd react to so much suffering and death, but he reminds her that those things are part of God's natural order and don't affect him like they do other people.
    • Aurora tries another story: when she was Marcelo's age, she worked as a nurse's aide in a geriatric unit, and met an old man named Mr. Quintana who wanted to ride a roller coaster before he died. 
    • Aurora took him to ride one, and the old guy said he could die happy. Marcelo fails to understand the point of the story.
    • He tells Aurora that this is why he should go to Paterson—so that when he graduates, he can be a nurse like her and work with special-needs kids and horses. 
    • In other words, Paterson = better choice. But he'll work in the law firm so he can go back there in the fall.
    • Aurora jumps straight to registering him for Oak Ridge, but Marcelo tells her again that she's wasting her time, even though nobody's listening.
  • Chapter 5

    • It's the following Monday, and Marcelo and Arturo are taking the train to work. Why? Because the train's normal.
    • Marcelo's ready first. He waits downstairs for Arturo dressed in his usual white button-down, on which he fastens the top button.
    • Arturo comes downstairs and, of course, unbuttons the top button. Normal, you see.
    • Aurora hands Marcelo that other symbol of normalcy: a cell phone. She's programmed in her number, Arturo's, Rabbi Heschel's, and Yolanda's. 
    • Marcelo calls Yolanda, who's away at Yale now but once worked at the law firm. She tells him to watch out for the a-holes. Now there's a good tip.
    • On the train, Marcelo comforts himself by praying the rosary in Spanish, like his grandma Abba did. 
    • But Arturo puts the kibosh on the religion thing. It's not normal to obsessively quote scripture at work, he says, but there's a chapel nearby if Marcelo needs to go pray at lunch.
    • What's more, Arturo says, Marcelo needs to understand a thing or two about competition if he's going to get into a decent college. And what better place to learn about competition than at a cutthroat law firm?
    • Marcelo ponders the fact that people in the "real world" don't say what they mean, so how are you ever supposed to determine the truth? He's getting way nervous about this law firm thing.
    • But hey, Arturo's happy to make some parallels between his job and the battlefield that totally ease Marcelo's fears. Not.
  • Chapter 6

    • Enter Jasmine. Or rather, enter Marcelo to the mailroom.
    • Jasmine's making copies, and she points Marcelo to his desk without much enthusiasm. 
    • She tells Marcelo to hook up his laptop to the Internet connection at his desk, and he's relieved. Now, when people use figures of speech he doesn't understand, he can look them up.
    • Jasmine wastes no time in telling Marcelo that there was someone else she wanted to hire for his job, a girl named Belinda. She was stuck with Marcelo instead when Arturo insisted.
    • In other words, she's not exactly please to meet him.
    • Marcelo gets the rundown on everything that's expected of him, with the most important reminder of all: the lawyers want everything yesterday.
    • Marcelo's confused, of course. Yesterday already happened.
    • Jasmine takes him around the office, where he meets a secretary named Martha who seems a bit lecherous. Actually, he met her at a barbecue at his house the year before, but he doesn't remember, so he just tells her again that it's nice to meet her.
    • Jasmine warns Marcelo to stay the heck away from the secretaries. He doesn't understand how he can deliver their mail and stay away from them at the same time.
    • Sure enough, as they walk through the office, Jasmine finally asks the question: what's wrong with Marcelo, anyway? Arturo said he had a "cognitive disorder."
    • Marcelo gives the spiel: it's closer to Asperger's Syndrome than anything else, but his cognition is fine. He has no problem thinking; he just doesn't do it like other people.
    • Jasmine asks if he's got autistic interests, like memorizing train schedules.
    • Marcelo's mouth gets dry, and he's nervous about not following a rule, but he tells her his special interest is religion, and he's surprised when she actually finds it interesting.
    • And now we meet the most evil secretary of all: Juliet, who works for Arturo's main competition, Stephen Holmes. Needless to say, Jasmine's not a fan.
    • Even worse, Holmes's smarmy son Oliver Wendell, a.k.a. just Wendell (get it? Oliver Wendell Holmes?), is working at the firm this summer, too, helping with the Vidromek litigation. 
    • Jasmine tells Marcelo to ignore everything Holmes, Juliet, or Wendell tell him to do because he works for her, not them.
    • Easier said than done.
  • Chapter 7

    • Marcelo's in the mailroom doing an Internet search for "cognitive disorder" when the phone rings.
    • It's Holmes. He wants to see Marcelo right away. Jasmine's not surprised—Holmes always wants everything right away.
    • Marcelo goes to Holmes's office to find him sitting behind a big glass-topped desk. 
    • Holmes calls him "Gump." Charming. Marcelo doesn't understand why that would be an insult, even though he knows it upsets Arturo, because he's seen Forrest Gump, and he thought the main character was a good person.
    • Sure enough, Holmes thinks Marcelo should help Wendell with the Vidromek litigation. Marcelo says he works for Jasmine, which causes Holmes to wonder aloud what Arturo sees in Jasmine. And that, in turn, makes Marcelo uncomfortable—after all, it's just because Jasmine's a good worker, right? Holmes answers with a snort.
    • Oh, but wait, it gets even better when Marcelo meets Wendell, Holmes's son.
    • Wendell, it turns out, has exactly one topic of conversation: women, specifically Jasmine and how he wants to get with her.
    • Marcelo's baffled; he doesn't understand this sexual attraction stuff. He has no idea how to talk to Wendell, who seizes the opportunity to make him feel even more uncomfortable by getting graphic about the things he likes to do.
    • He finishes their meeting by doing something particularly insulting: unbuttoning Marcelo's top button, which Marcelo has fastened again. 
    • Peeps need to leave Marcelo's wardrobe alone, right? Right.
    • Overwhelmed by trying to comprehend the conversation he's just had, Marcelo goes back to the mailroom. 
    • On his desk is a detailed schedule, courtesy of Jasmine, of exactly what he's supposed to do and when he's supposed to do it.
    • Marcelo is so relieved that he finds himself tearing up for the first time in his life.
  • Chapter 8

    • As Marcelo does his daily tasks, such as refilling the copy machines with paper, he contemplates the difference between small talk and large talk. Large talk, he decides, involves emotions.
    • Back in the mailroom, he's visited by Beth, the secretary for attorney Harvey Marcus.
    • Beth's super obnoxious, freaking out about some files she needs copied and collated—you guessed it—yesterday. 
    • Because Marcelo doesn't completely comprehend every component of her emergency, she asks him if he's retarded. Lovely girl, that Beth.
    • Marcelo doesn't quite understand where to put the tabs and how to bind the folders, but he can make copies. He organizes the papers, replaces the stickies that explain the tabs, and waits for Jasmine to come back.
    • When she does, she's impressed with what he's done, even though Belinda could have done it faster. She tells Marcelo not to worry about Beth—she'll have the folders in plenty of time, even if it's half an hour after she wanted them.
    • They get the folders done, and Jasmine compliments Marcelo on how perfect they are. They're better than she could have done, even if she could have done it faster.
    • Marcelo, though, is worried that he won't pass Arturo's success test if he doesn't learn to go faster. Jasmine tells him not to sweat it that he's slightly different from other people. 
    • We love Jasmine, and not just because she gets the documents to Harvey before he "has a cow." She assures Marcelo that even if he doesn't understand what "having a cow" means, he doesn't want to see Harvey have one.
  • Chapter 9

    • Marcelo's having lunch and contemplating the ways he's succeeding at his job. He can go places by himself, for example, as long as he sticks to a pre-printed map.
    • As he finishes his sandwich and is about to head back to the mailroom, he's intercepted by Wendell, who wants to talk about—what else?—Jasmine.
    • Amazingly enough, Jasmine won't go out with him. Imagine that. But he wants to know if she ever talks about him to Marcelo.
    • Marcelo says no, and the conversation turns into one more of Wendell's lectures about women, including how the secretaries at the law firm are all hot in some way.
    • Blah, blah, blah. Wendell's even more of a one-track mind than Marcelo, and his track is headed nowhere good. He leaves Marcelo wondering what exactly makes a woman attractive, and if he himself could ever feel attraction.
    • Back in the mailroom, Marcelo reports to Jasmine that Wendell thinks she's beautiful, and she tells Marcelo that Wendell can't be trusted.
    • There's that word again: trust. It's safe to say it totally confounds our friend Marcelo.
  • Chapter 10

    • Arturo's got a surprise for Marcelo this morning: they're going to the gym. Marcelo didn't even know Arturo worked out.
    • Marcelo's much more concerned about something besides getting buff. He's having more and more trouble hearing the IM since he started working at the law firm.
    • At the gym, a man named Mr. Gustafson comes up to Arturo. He's apparently an attorney, too, because he wants to settle out of court with some of Arturo's firm's clients and for both lawyers to give themselves a nice bonus.
    • He's talking about Vidromek. Arturo says it will take a lot to get them to settle. They're mad because they think Gustafson's firm rounded up five people hurt by their windshields and convinced them to sue.
    • Vidromek, it would seem, wants Arturo to destroy Gustafson and his firm. But Arturo's willing to work out a deal if Vidromek can be convinced.
    • The drawback: Gustafson has to deal with Holmes.
    • Marcelo doesn't know what they're talking about, and he's never heard Arturo talk about work before, but the idea that Arturo destroys people is upsetting.
    • When Gustafson goes away and Arturo and Marcelo are alone, Marcelo asks why Arturo would want to destroy a person, and why Vidromek hates Gustafson.
    • Arturo says hate's a strong word and changes the subject: how's Marcelo doing in the mailroom?
    • Marcelo gives him a brief rundown—he can do what's expected of him, but slowly. He and Jasmine get along fine.
    • Arturo is pleased, and he and Marcelo go their separate ways to lift weights. Marcelo wonders if what he just had is what counts for conversation with his father.
  • Chapter 11

    • Marcelo and Jasmine are standing in line at the clerk's office at the courthouse, waiting to file some documents Juliet (Holmes's evil secretary) waited until the last minute to give them.
    • A clerk named Al pays special attention to Jasmine, smiling at her and blushing in her presence, which leads Marcelo to ask if he's Jasmine's boyfriend.
    • He's not.
    • Jasmine suggests that Marcelo can still make his train if they hurry, but Marcelo's riding home with Arturo in his car that day. It's time for a progress assessment.
    • Since they've got a little time, Jasmine takes Marcelo to a park she likes to go to. Marcelo uses the time to keep talking to her about beauty.
    • He has a lot of questions: does she know she's beautiful? What does it mean for a person to be beautiful?
    • Jasmine turns the tables: is there anything Marcelo thinks is beautiful? Anything at all?
    • Music, of course. He can say that music is beautiful
    • Jasmine agrees, and asks if he knows what else is beautiful. When he says no, she gestures at the children playing in the park.
    • Oh, and she also tells him that her brother James was killed when their horse Kickaz accidentally kicked him in the stomach.
  • Chapter 12

    • Surprise: Rabbi Heschel's a woman!
    • She and Marcelo have just concluded their latest meeting, and they're sitting outside Temple Emmanuel when Marcelo decides to ask some hard questions.
    • He wants to know, first of all, why Adam and Eve felt ashamed when they realized they were naked in the Garden of Eden.
    • What Marcelo wants to know is, if sex is as good as Wendell says it is, why would it cause anyone to feel shame?
    • No pressure, Rabbi.
    • She tells him that they realized sex could be used for evil, which it can. Then she asks Marcelo if he knows how sex works.
    • He knows how getting pregnant works. The other stuff? Not so much.
    • Rabbi Heschel then has to explain to Marcelo how sex can be used for evil, and how people can use it to hurt each other. 
    • After explaining it all, she rubs her head like she has a headache, and Marcelo wishes he knew what to do to comfort her. 
    • But it's that human emotion thing that baffles him, so he just stays mum.
  • Chapter 13

    • And now for an awkward lunch with smarmy Wendell. He takes Marcelo to a place he calls "The Club," where the maitre d' has to round up a coat and tie for our hero.
    • Wendell wants something, of course. He wants Marcelo to convince Jasmine to go for a ride on his yacht.
    • How's he supposed to do that exactly? Well, Wendell wants Marcelo to go yachting with him and invite Jasmine. While Marcelo entertains himself on deck, Wendell will take Jasmine down below and…
    • Well, let's just say he's getting more despicable by the minute. 
    • Marcelo wants to know if Wendell wants to marry Jasmine. Wendell says people like him don't marry people like her. Ick.
    • He then launches into a long story about "Mayflower Lawyer" (his father) and "Minority Lawyer" (Arturo). Charming guy, that Wendell.
    • The story: Arturo was a patent lawyer; Holmes a litigation lawyer. They met at Yale.
    • Arturo made his post-Yale fortune by helping people in Central and South America sell their inventions in the US. 
    • The problem with this is that when people steal your clients' inventions, you have to sue them. Enter the need for a litigation lawyer, and Holmes is the best.
    • Holmes, seeing Arturo's success, agreed to ignore their longtime, mutual animosity and partner with him for a 50/50 split on the profits.
    • So when Marcelo refuses to help Wendell score with Jasmine, Wendell tells him that Vidromek, Arturo's biggest patent client, can be convinced to drop Arturo very easily.
    • How? Well, right now litigation's the priority for Vidromek. And if they found out about a big mistake Arturo made, he could be useless to the firm and, therefore, let go.
    • Wendell's deal: convince Jasmine, and work a few hours a week on the Vidromek case. In exchange, Wendell will tell Arturo that Marcelo did a great job and deserves to go to Paterson in the fall.
    • Marcelo says he'll consider helping Wendell, but only because talking to Wendell turns his brain to mush and he's not thinking clearly.
    • Done and done. Wendell charges the check (including his two underage martinis) to his father's account and walks out of The Club without even saying goodbye.
  • Chapter 14

    • Marcelo decides he'll walk to South Station and get the train home, and he thinks he can find it himself even though Wendell took off.
    • Unfortunately, he can't. He's lost in Chinatown.
    • Because he likes strong smells, he sits on a crate next to a fish market and is trying to figure out what to do when his cell phone rings.
    • It's Jasmine, trying to figure out where he is.
    • Marcelo admits he's lost, and Jasmine asks him to read the closest street sign. He does, and she comes to rescue him.
    • But while they're in Chinatown, she's got something to show him: her home.
    • Turns out Jasmine lives in a tiny room in a building that used to be a dorm for Tufts medical students but now houses mostly Cambodian immigrants.
    • When they get to her room, Marcelo is amazed—every inch of wall space is covered with CDs, except for the patch covered with a Keith Jarrett poster.
    • And then there's the keyboard, with 88 keys like a real piano, which Jasmine sits down and effortlessly plays.
    • Marcelo's impressed, and not just because in the poster of Keith Jarrett leaning over the piano, it looks like he's praying. Jasmine's funky tunes have a rhythm and beat he's never heard before.
    • She hands him a Keith Jarrett CD, the one with the same picture as the poster, and he thanks her.
    • When she asks what he's thanking her for, all he can think to say is, "For showing me."
  • Chapter 15

    • Wendell has asked Arturo if Marcelo can help him on the Vidromek case, and Arturo was thrilled, of course.
    • Marcelo? Not so much.
    • Of course when Marcelo reports for work, Wendell expects him to do the work Wendell's too lazy to do. And by "too lazy," we mean, "he has to go to a Harvard squash team meeting."
    • Today's the last day to turn in the documents to another law firm, but squash is more important, apparently.
    • Wendell fills Marcelo in on the case: people who have been injured by their shattered windshields are suing because the windshields do not, in fact, break into a million tiny harmless pieces like they're supposed to.
    • The people who are suing want to find out if Vidromek knew about the flaw, but Vidromek's lips are sealed.
    • Wendell reminds Marcelo that because Arturo's so happy to have his son on the Vidromek case, Marcelo will get to go to Paterson, and therefore he owes Wendell the favor of getting Jasmine on the yacht.
    • Marcelo's bummed: wasn't Wendell trying to be his friend? He's not going to get Jasmine on the yacht, because it doesn't feel right, which will mean Wendell won't be his friend anymore.
    • Oh well. He gets to organizing the files. Wendell has told him to throw duplicates away.
    • After he's done, Marcelo decides to go through the trash to make sure he didn't throw anything away by accident.
    • It's then that he discovers he's accidentally thrown away a photo of a girl with half a face. Yep—half a face.
    • He shoves the picture into an envelope just in time: Arturo comes in to tell Marcelo how much more he'll learn from working with Wendell.
    • But Marcelo stands up for himself, because he still wants to work with Jasmine. Go Marcelo, go.
    • Arturo's response is to find it interesting that Marcelo's raising his voice. This is the last thing Arturo tells him before leaving the office and going about his business.
  • Chapter 16

    • Wham, bam, two-page chapter: Marcelo's in his tree house trying to figure out what to do about the picture.
    • He's also thinking about suffering. Specifically, he's pondering the girl's suffering versus that of the kids at Paterson. He decides the girl has suffered more. 
    • He's also beginning to realize that his dad has been keeping some secrets. 
    • He also tries to find the IM but realizes he can't.
    • The chapter ends with Marcelo allowing his dog, Namu, to lead him away on a walk.
  • Chapter 17

    • Marcelo and Jasmine go to lunch in the cafeteria. He tells her he wants to help the girl but isn't sure how. He wants Jasmine's help.
    • Jasmine tells him to tread carefully; after all, Marcelo has a lot more to lose in confronting Arturo than she does.
    • Jasmine does a little explaining about how litigation works. She gives Marcelo a few possible scenarios the defense might use in the girl's lawsuit: her parents didn't take proper care of the windshield, perhaps. Or maybe it wasn't installed correctly.
    • Marcelo changes the subject, because it's all too overwhelming for him. He tells Jasmine that the CD she gave him of Keith Jarrett playing Bach's Goldberg Variations is inferior to Glenn Gould's version. 
    • Why does Marcelo like Gould better? Because he plays "more correctly."
    • Jasmine freaks: how is Gould's technical correctness superior to Jarrett's ability to improvise?
    • Marcelo has never thought about improvisation before.
    • Jasmine uses the moment to draw a parallel: the pianist decides in the moment which note is correct. And if Marcelo wants to help the girl, he has to work out right and wrong for himself Only he can decide the correct note. 
    • The right note, she tells him, will just sound right, while the wrong note will sound wrong. Another handy tip from Jasmine.
  • Chapter 18

    • On day two of picking up Wendell's slack, Marcelo gets his own office. Bonus!
    • Well, not technically. It's actually Robert Steely's office. He's an attorney who's going to get fired as soon as he returns from vacation.
    • The reason? He was "too soft." Holmes's secretary Juliet tells Marcelo that people hire Sandoval and Holmes when they want the meanest, toughest attorneys.
    • More than that, though, Steely questioned Holmes, which is something you just don't do.
    • Steely walks in as Marcelo's working. Somehow he's been let past the lobby instead of being sent straight to Arturo's office. It's exactly as awkward as it sounds.
    • Steely figures it out as soon as he sees Marcelo in his office. He can't believe it; he thought they'd give him time to find another job. This just ain't classy.
    • Before Steely came in, Marcelo had gone through his desk and found a magnifying glass. He used it to look more closely at the picture of the girl, and discovered that there's a calendar behind her head.
    • On the calendar: the words "su taqueria" (your taco place) and a zip code. Kid's turning into quite the detective.
    • It also looks like she's standing in a lawyer's office. How does Marcelo know? Because it resembles the offices at his father's firm, although it's not exactly the same. 
    • As soon as he tells Jasmine, she's on it. A little internet sleuthing reveals that the zip code is in Jamaica Plain, a nearby neighborhood in Boston. 
    • Next step: call some taquerias and find out which one gave out calendars, then find a lawyer who eats at one frequently.
    • Marcelo's impressed by Jasmine's ability to think logically. Kindred spirits, those two.
  • Chapter 19

    • Armed with a list of lawyers in Jamaica Plain, Marcelo starts calling taquerias. When he calls one called Cielito and learns that they give out calendars, he reads them a list of Jamaica Plain lawyers.
    • The owner of Cielito recognizes the name Jerry Garcia right away. He's a lawyer half a block away who comes in all the time.
    • Way to deal in the real world, Marcelo. We're not sure we could have thought of that.
    • He's off to Jerry Garcia's office right away. Jasmine walks him to the train, and Marcelo gets to Garcia's office by himself.
    • After a three-hour wait, Garcia finally invites him in.
    • When Marcelo tells Garcia his name, Garcia says he went to Harvard Law with Arturo.
    • In fact, they used to play poker with a group of Mexican law students, and Garcia always won. He bought groceries with the money.
    • One night, while walking back to the dorms with Arturo after a particularly cutthroat game, Garcia told Arturo he wanted to open his own small practice to help underprivileged clients.
    • Arturo said that sounded great and all, but he had a job offer from a prestigious Boston law firm after graduation. 
    • He confided to Garcia that he felt his life had veered off track, and Garcia told him to veer it back.
    • When Marcelo shows Garcia the picture, Garcia says the girl's name is Ixtel, and that he wrote Arturo a letter about her. He shows the letter to Marcelo.
    • Basically, Garcia asked Sandoval and Holmes to cut a deal: settle out of court for $68,000 so Ixtel could get surgery to fix her face. He appealed to Arturo as a friend, and attached the picture.
    • Arturo wrote back saying no way. Ick.
    • Garcia asks Marcelo if he'd like to meet Ixtel. She lives in a home called Sisters of Mercy in Lawrence, which is an hour away. He goes there on weekends and offers to bring Marcelo along.
    • Before Marcelo leaves, Garcia asks him for a clue: all he needs is something that tells him Vidromek knew about the windshields and continued to make them, because admitting they were flawed would mean Vidromek was wrong.
    • Marcelo asks for some time to decide what to do.
  • Chapter 20

    • Back at the office, Juliet confronts Marcelo about how long his doctor's appointment was.
    • Marcelo doesn't know what she's talking about at first, but then remembers: he lied and said that's where he was going.
    • Lying, Marcelo realizes, takes a lot of concentration. Preach.
    • Wendell's in his office and scolds Marcelo for not doing better work. He needs Marcelo to run an errand for him.
    • And of course this errand is super shady. He wants Marcelo to go to Robert Steely's house and get him to sign a letter acknowledging he's been fired and agreeing not to take action against the firm.
    • Juliet calls Marcelo a cab despite Marcelo asking her to get a messenger, and he's on his way to Steely's.
    • To Marcelo's surprise, Steely lives in a neighborhood where the houses are closer together (read: not as nice) as his own.
    • Marcelo sees a piano inside Steely's house, which makes him remember Jasmine telling him that the right note will sound right. 
    • He takes it as a sign and asks Steely if the firm knew about the windshields. Then he shows Steely the picture of Ixtel.
    • Steely tells Marcelo that even though it's not right, it's Arturo's job to defend corporations, so there was no way he could settle out of court with Garcia.
    • Although Steely can't really get involved, he tells Marcelo there's a 36th box of Vidromek files. Marcelo only has 35.
    • Steely wishes him luck.
    • Back at the office, Marcelo tells Jasmine that the 36th box must contain a document saying Vidromek knew about the windshields.
    • Jasmine agrees to look for the box that night, then walks Marcelo to the subway once again.
  • Chapter 21

    • The next day, as he's on the way to the mailroom, Marcelo runs into Arturo, whom he's been avoiding.
    • Arturo invites him to have lunch, but Marcelo blows him off for Jasmine. Arturo senses Marcelo's mad, but has no idea why.
    • Jasmine's found the 36th box. She tells Marcelo that if what's in the box is made public, Vidromek will probably lose the case. Yep, we're playing with live ammo now.
    • Here's the thing: if Vidromek loses the case, Arturo will no longer have the money to send Marcelo to Paterson.
    • Marcelo feels confused and realizes feeling confused is uncomfortable. We'll say. Still, he decides to look in the box.
    • There it is: a letter from Vidromek quality control to the president of the company, telling him the windshields are defective.
    • Over lunch, Marcelo tells Jasmine that if anyone asks him where he got the file, he'll have to lie so she won't lose her job.
    • Jasmine, seeing that Marcelo's a bit of an emotional wreck, invites him to come to her family home in Vermont for the weekend.
    • The plot thickens.
  • Chapter 22

    • When Marcelo tells the parental units about the trip to Vermont, Aurora's thrilled. Arturo thinks it's a really bad idea.
    • Aurora and Marcelo have no idea why, but Marcelo senses that his dad is once again being shady.
    • Aurora wins, and when Jasmine comes to get Marcelo, Aurora's packed them lunch for the road. They pack the lunch and Namu the dog into Jasmine's Jeep, and they're on their way.
    • Before they leave, Jasmine gives Aurora some guy named Jonah's number. On the trip, Marcelo asks who Jonah is.
    • Old family friend, says Jasmine. His younger brother Cody and hers, James, the one who was killed by Kickaz the horse, were best friends.
    • Jasmine's dad's house is run down and has a yard full of faded plastic animals.
    • Welcome to another lesson about class distinctions, Marcelo.
    • Even more eccentric than a yard full of pink flamingoes is Jasmine's dad, Amos, who has dementia and likes to say crude things every other sentence.
    • Jasmine's got to get her old man to a doctor's appointment, which means getting him to take a bath. He tells her he took one last month.
    • She manages to get him in the tub and into fresh clothes anyway, with much grumbling on his part.
    • She offers Marcelo the choice of staying on the farm or going with them to the appointment, and he chooses to stay on the farm and hang with Namu and Amos's dog Gomer.
    • Tomorrow, Jasmine tells him, they'll load Kickaz down with supplies and take the three-hour trip the hill and to the secret pond, where Amos keeps a fishing shack. He'll need coal and food for the winter.
    • Then they'll camp out for the night, which means Marcelo will sleep in a tent with her. He's both happy and nervous about this.
    • After she leaves, he sits by the crosses erected in honor of Jasmine's dead mother and brother and thinks about the Vidromek case.
    • He decides he'll put it out of his mind until after the trip. Right now, he has sleeping beside Jasmine to think about.
  • Chapter 23

    • Marcelo and Jasmine are doing dishes that evening when the Shackleford boys come to call. That's Jonah, Cody, and their father Samuel, and they've brought some Bud Light to chill with Amos, Jasmine, and Marcelo for the evening.
    • As the others begin to talk, Jonah asks Marcelo to go for a walk.
    • He wants to have a heart-to-heart. Not surprisingly, when they go outside, Marcelo learns that Jonah's in love with Jasmine.
    • Seems that's a bit of an epidemic.
    • Also, it occurs to Marcelo that all his talks lately have been heart-to-hearts.
    • They go out into the horse field, where Marcelo bonds with Kickaz in a way nobody else ever has. 
    • Kickaz, who's calmed down in his old age, still doesn't like for anyone to pet him, but he's cool with Marcelo and gives him a friendly headbutt.
    • Jasmine, says Jonah, is building a cabin on the property. It's going to be her home/music studio, and she's planning to move back to Vermont as soon as she saves up enough money. 
    • That's why she lives in a tiny room in Boston, Marcelo realizes. She's planning to come back and help her dad.
    • Jonah wants to know if Marcelo's attracted to Jasmine, but Marcelo's still trying to figure out what sexual attraction even is. It's not like he's exactly had any practice.
    • Back at the house, the old men are arguing in very graphic terms about the fact that Samuel's bull was unable to impregnate (read: get it on with) Amos's old cow. 
    • That's the cue for Jasmine to kick them out for the evening.
  • Chapter 24

    • Time for the camping trip. Marcelo's super nervous, but he loves being around Jasmine, so its kind of okay.
    • They hike for several hours Amos's fishing spot. On the way, Jasmine talks about how much she loves Vermont and how she wants to come back.
    • Once they get to Amos's shack, which he pulls out onto the frozen lake in winter to fish, Jasmine tells Marcelo that the old-timer fishermen don't like the new-timer ones.
    • The new-timers, she says, want generators and snowmobiles. The old-timers aren't down, but Jasmine knows that as soon as they die off, it'll be generator city.
    • They do a little fishing in the canoe, in which Marcelo contemplates life/religion/doing the right thing.
    • Jasmine actually catches a fish, which they have for dinner.
    • And then it's time to set up the tent and crawl into those sleeping bags.
    • Marcelo's already freaked enough, but then Jasmine unzips her sleeping bag and lays it flat so they can share.
    • They have a talk about the IM, in which Marcelo realizes that Jasmine doesn't think it's weird. He admits he can't find it anymore, but feels very close to Jasmine for caring about it.
    • Which leads Marcelo, Mr. Smooth Move, to ask if they're going to have "sexual intercourse."
    • The answer: no, but she wouldn't sleep with anyone else like this. And by "like this," she means with her arm around him.
    • They fall asleep with Marcelo thinking that not being alone is pretty much the most awesome thing that's ever happened to him.
  • Chapter 25

    • Back at the law office, Marcelo's sitting outside thinking about the weekend and how amazing it was to sleep beside Jasmine when Wendell comes out to have a cigarette.
    • Wendell knows about the camping trip, and he's not happy, to say the least.
    • He gets back at Marcelo by handing him a letter and telling him it's "the gift of truth."
    • Then he kicks a pigeon and injures it, and it's the first time Marcelo's ever seen anyone be mean to an animal. And for no good reason, no less.
    • Wendell just gets more and more charming by the minute.
    • The letter, in a nutshell: it's from Jasmine to Arturo. She's telling him that what they did in his office after last year's Christmas party was wrong. 
    • Marcelo reads it three times, feeling worse and worse as he comprehends it more and more.
    • He's furious, but he tries to tell himself that Arturo maybe loved Jasmine a little. But how could someone who lies and hurts people feel love?
    • But what hurts even worse is thinking that maybe Jasmine loved Arturo.
  • Chapter 26

    • And now for a really beautiful chapter in which Marcelo and Rabbi Heschel talk about love, religion, and losing both IM and faith.
    • Not only can Marcelo not find the IM anymore, he's not as obsessed with religion.
    • Rabbi Heschel gets all Coolest Rabbi Ever and tells Marcelo that everyone in the religion business has screwed the world up big time.
    • She tells him that she became a Rabbi because she had a strong urge. 
    • Marcelo wants to know what to do if you have a strong urge to help somebody if it would hurt someone else. 
    • She tells him that sometimes people start out good and end up evil, even though she doesn't say, "like Arturo."
    • When she tells him to do what feels right, he realizes he has to help Ixtel.
    • As Aurora arrives to pick him up, Rabbi Heschel reminds him that faith is a bit like IM: you have to follow the music even when you can't hear it.
  • Chapter 27

    • It's time. Marcelo goes back to Jerry Garcia's office with the Vidromek quality control memo.
    • Jerry Garcia doesn't want Marcelo to hand over the memo out of anger at Arturo.
    • Marcelo tells him that's not why he's doing it. He just wants to do what's right.
    • Garcia says not to show him the memo, just to tell him that it exists and give him the date. 
    • Marcelo does, and Garcia says now it's time to ask Arturo again about the settling-out-of-court thing. It's going to cost more this time, though.
    • He'll take great pleasure, he admits, in seeing Holmes and Wendell go down.
    • So, he asks Marcelo, about that trip to the Sisters of Mercy to meet Ixtel. He'll call Marcelo at the law firm later in the week to find out if he wants to go.
    • Marcelo once again has to think about it, but as he leaves the office, he knows he's done the right thing.
  • Chapter 28

    • When Marcelo goes back to work the next day, he successfully avoids Jasmine, but he can't avoid Wendell.
    • To say Wendell's mad is an understatement. Garcia's called Holmes and asked for a copy of the memo.
    • Wendell had a hunch this was Marcelo's doing, so he dug in Marcelo's backpack, which Marcelo accidentally left in Steely's office. 
    • Bam: memo.
    • Attorney-client privilege, Gump, says Wendell. Anything a client gives a lawyer is confidential, and Marcelo broke the rules.
    • Wendell the pigeon-kicker doesn't care about the picture of Ixtel. And Arturo, he says, wants to talk to Marcelo. 
    • In Arturo's office, Arturo tells Marcelo that Garcia's agreed to disappear for $75,000.
    • He also yells at Marcelo for not getting it about following rules, even when they're wrong.
    • Marcelo ends the meeting by giving Arturo Jasmine's letter. He waits for Arturo to start reading it before he leaves the room.
  • Chapter 29

    • Time to meet Ixtel. Marcelo goes with Garcia to the Sisters of Mercy.
    • And as luck would have it, it's also time for another lesson in class distinctions: this place is super old and run-down. It used to be a one-family mansion back in the day, but the sisters tell Marcelo they can't even imagine what that would have been like. They laugh at the very idea.
    • Sister Juana thinks Marcelo's a hero, and she gives him some lemonade and turns on the fan for him.
    • He hears that someone's crying down the hall. As it turns out, this is a home for troubled girls, and Ixtel's been living there since her mom died.
    • The crying escalates to glass breaking, and Sister Juana and Garcia take off: Juana to see what's up with the upset person, Garcia to run some errands for the sisters.
    • As Marcelo sits in the room alone, a girl named Maria comes in. She knows he's there to see Ixtel, and she says she'll go get her.
    • Marcelo goes outside to sit in the courtyard and wait for her. When she appears, she gives him as much of a smile as you can give with half your face missing.
    • The surgery, she says, has been scheduled. She thanks Marcelo profusely for doing the right thing.
    • He asks her if she's happy here, and she says she is. Two years after the accident, when she turned 16 and her mother died, she started doing drugs and prostituting, and the sisters helped her get clean and off the streets.
    • Now she wants to go back to high school and start a new life with a new face.
    • She tells Marcelo that part of how you recover is that you learn to accept your ugly parts and forgive yourself. 
    • When Garcia returns and it's time to leave, she asks if she can give Marcelo a kiss. He lets her kiss his forehead. 
    • She tells him it's half a kiss, but it's all she's got.
  • Chapter 30

    • At home that night, Marcelo tells Aurora he's ready to go to Oak Ridge High. He doesn't want to talk about it, but he's okay with it.
    • He heads for the tree house and thinks some more about suffering. For all he's seen at Paterson, it was nothing compared to the real world.
    • He wonders what will happen if Wendell gets even more evil and sends a copy of Jasmine's letter to Aurora. His mom is pretty awesome, and she doesn't deserve that. 
    • Marcelo wants to go to college to become a nurse like her. He wants to work with children like she does so he can help lessen the hurt in the world.
    • But where to go to college?
    • Vermont, of course.
    • Marcelo sits down at his computer. He's got some research to do.
  • Chapter 31

    • In Robert Steely's office the next day, there's a letter from Arturo to Marcelo. He's apologizing for what he did with Jasmine.
    • When he read the letter through Marcelo's eyes, trying to see through them for the first time, he realized how much he screwed up, and he apologizes for it.
    • Marcelo's still fired, however.
    • Jasmine's heard. She appears in the office to tell him she's sorry and ask him what his deal is She wants to know why he's been avoiding her.
    • He tells her the truth: he knows about her and Arturo.
    • She feels awful and assures him they just kissed, which still wasn't right. She had a fleeting crush on him but is totally over it now. She wishes she could go back and change it.
    • Marcelo forgives her because he's realized he loves her, in his own way. He's still confused, but he asks her if she meant it when she said he could go to Vermont anytime he wanted.
    • She did, which is good, because he's decided he wants to go to nursing school there to be with her.
    • She's down with the idea but tells him he has to be sure he's doing it for the right reason.
    • Right note is right, he says.
    • She kisses him on the cheek, and he hears the IM again.