The Universal Laws of Marco struck me as yet another coming of age story about some High Schoolers, and I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for it. However, not too far into the book, my opinion began to shift. Rodrigues gives us a dual perspective, but not from different characters, but rather from the Eighth Grade and Senior Year versions of Marco.
The entirety of this book is Marco processing his own trauma and choices and the trauma and choices of his friends. I love character development, so this was a great story for me. Marco is a very sweet guy. However, it doesn’t really matter how sweet you are, sometimes things are going to feel uncomfortable, and we’re going to handle them incorrectly at least some of the time, before we learn how to handle them in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves.
I loved all the conversation about mental health, from domestic violence to alcoholism to depression. Rodrigues gave so many characters voices, to both make mistakes and still be humans worthy of love. I love that she was able to do a deep dive into cultural studies and create such a diverse cast of characters that were able to recognize their own biases and appropriations with time.
This really felt like a growing up story in the way that I feel kids are growing up these days. Rodrigues captured Marco’s voice and made him feel like a friend I would have had in High School. There is so much in his story that reminds us to reach out and use the connections we have. Isolation doesn’t help progress. Communicating with friends, family, reading books, seeking perspectives other than our own can help us make the best choices we will make, and leaning on others reminds us that we are not the first or last person to make a mistake.
The main piece of this book that was irritating me throughout my reading of it was how they called each other a “tribe”, but even this was addressed in the end, in their own time. I felt like Rodrigues wrapped up even little details like that genuinely and appropriately.
I received a copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.