The term "cognitive disorder" implies that there is something wrong with the way I think or the way I perceive reality. I perceive reality just fine. Sometimes I perceive more of reality than others.
The summer before his senior year of high school, Marcelo's father gives him an ultimatum. His choice: Spend the summer as planned, working with the Haflinger ponies at his beloved Paterson, a special school devoted to students with varying disabilities, and then go to regular high school in the fall; or spend the summer in "the real world", working in the mail room at his father's law firm, and he'll be allowed to decide for himself where he wants to spend his senior year. He weighs his options and chooses the mail room -- because, more than anything, he wants to spend his senior year at Paterson.
Marcelo's voice is wonderful and believable and different. He has some childlike qualities, and those qualities, along with his "disorder", make some people underestimate him and try to manipulate him. But, as he says, he perceives reality just fine. His time in the real world changes him, and it changes some of the people around him. It's a lovely, lovely book. And, happily, the cover art does it justice. I love it when it's RIGHT like that.
Interestingly, one of Marcelo's main interests is in religion. Which is something that many people feel uncomfortable talking about in the real world. Heck, most of the time, I feel kind of uncomfortable reading about it. That's all on me, my upbringing, etc., etc. -- but it's still there -- most of the time, I don't respond well to books that deal heavily with religion because I just don't get it. I never seem to connect or fully understand. And it seems so personal. Anyway, my weird squeamish feeling didn't happen with Marcelo. Like him, I was interested. And curious. And he made me want to understand. Everything.
Do not miss this one. Like Chalice, though in a completely different way, it made me feel more connected to the world in that big-heart-interconnectedness-of-all-things way*. I'll be recommending it highly to fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, as well as to adults who don't read all that much YA -- it's definitely a crossover, and it's one that could very well convert some naysayers.
*I swear, I'm not going all New Agey on you.