Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Book Review:  The Inexplicable Logic of My LifeThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by Clarion Books on March 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 452
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis:  The first day of senior year:  Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?



The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a moving story about love and about what it means to be a family.  It follows the journey of Sal, a young man who is starting his senior year of high school.  Sal, who lost his mother at an early age and never knew his real father, lives with his adoptive gay father, Vicente, and has been raised in a loving Mexican-American family.  Up until now, Sal has always been sure of who he is and where he belongs, but when he unexpectedly starts getting into fights at school, he starts to question everything about himself. How can he have these random violent tendencies when he has been raised in such a loving environment and has never known violence?  He feels like he doesn’t even know who he is anymore.  As if questioning his very being wasn’t enough, Sal is confronted by mortality when a beloved family member is diagnosed with terminal cancer. It seems like his whole world is coming apart and Sal feels lost.  Thankfully his best friend Samantha is there to help him try to make sense of what he’s feeling, but when her world is turned upside down too, they are both left trying to make sense of the cards they’ve been dealt in life.  In many ways, this is a coming of age story for them both.



There’s so much to like about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. I love the fact that it’s primarily character driven.  Sure, there’s a plot. Lots of things – big things actually – happen throughout the story.  But it’s not really so much about what happens, as it is about how the characters react to and learn and grow from what happens to them.

I really loved the characters and the relationships too.  Sal is a great kid and since we’re getting the story from his perspective, it’s impossible not to feel sympathetic towards him, especially with everything he goes through.  Thankfully he has an incredible support system in the people around him.

This book is filled with incredible relationships, and not the romantic kind.  I’m talking about familial relationships.  The father-son bond between Sal and his adoptive father is wonderful.  Vicente is a nurturing father who always seems to know the right thing to say to put Sal’s mind at ease.  He’s such a great dad that Sal’s friends, Samantha and Fito, have practically adopted him as their dad as well.

Speaking of Samantha and Fito, the friendships in this book are beautiful too.  Samantha and Sal have practically grown up together and are as close as if they were brother and sister.  Samantha has a less than ideal relationship with her mother and so she probably spends more time hanging out with Sal and his dad than she does with her own family. Like siblings, Samantha and Sal spend a lot of time mocking and teasing each other.  Their hilarious banter was actually one of my favorite things about the book.  But even though they constantly pick on each other, also like siblings, they always have each other’s backs no matter what.

Fito is a newer addition to Sal’s circle of friends.  Like Samantha, he has a pretty rough home life and, at one point, even gets kicked out and is living on the streets for a while until Sal and Samantha find out and find him a place to stay.   Fito isn’t used to anyone looking out for him and doing nice things for him so their kind gesture brings him near tears, which made me fall head over heels for this poor kid.

There were many other beautiful relationships too, including that between Sal and his adoptive grandmother, Mima.  Their bond reminded me of my relationship with my own grandmother.  When I was growing up, she was one of my best friends and biggest confidantes and that’s the way it is with Sal and Mima.  Growing up with such nurturing influences as Mima and Vicente in his life, I could understand all the more why Sal was so confused by the violent outbursts he keeps having at school.

Aside from the characters and relationships that drive the story what I also loved about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is that it’s a book that makes you think.  It unflinchingly tackles big topics like love, family, death, grief, nature vs. nurture, and even homophobia and racism and how all of these things impact Sal and his family and friends.

My absolute favorite thing about this book though is its message about family.  The Inexplicable Logic of My Life beautifully illustrates that family has little to do with biology and genetics and everything to do with who you let into your heart and who lets you into theirs.  Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood.



The only real criticism I have of this book is something that is hard to go into without giving away spoilers, but it’s about a loss that Sal, Samantha, and Fito each experience.  Even though it definitely added a moving and dramatic element to the story, I couldn’t help but think “What are the odds that that same tragedy would actually happen to all three friends?”  If you’ve read the book, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t read it, you’ll figure it out.  Other than that one quibble, I was really pleased with this read.



If you’re looking for a moving and thought-provoking story about love and loss and what it means to be a family, I’d definitely recommend The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.




About Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. He is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the American Book Award for his books for adults. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a Printz Honor Book, the Stonewall Award winner, the Pura Belpre Award winner, the Lambda Literary Award winner, and a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. His first novel for teens, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, was an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book for teens, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Southwest Book Award, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.

10 replies
  1. sydneysshelves
    sydneysshelves says:

    I’m listening to this currently on audio and loving it! I agree about your only dislike. I tried to explain it to my friend and ended up saying “Its about this guy and his two friends and they are dealing with growing up and different types of relationships” Which sounds sooo generic and awful but this book is just precious.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      It’s such a great book. I didn’t mention it in my review but it made me cry a couple of times while I was reading. I just found it so moving. I look forward to reading your review once you’ve finished 🙂

  2. Jordan Rose
    Jordan Rose says:

    I’m so glad to see such a great review for this book. I’ve seen quite a few things about it here and there, and I was excited to read such an in-depth review! I love that there are so many great familial relationships – from the sound of it, they seem to be an important part of the story, and I feel like I want to see more books that feature those types of relationships, so I’ll definitely have to look into this one more. Great review! 🙂

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks! Yeah, if you’re looking for a book that focuses on those relationships with family and friends rather than romantic relationships, this is definitely a book that you’ll want to check out.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Ha! I’m glad it wasn’t just me. That one thing kept nagging at me for the second half of the book. Aside from that, it was a beautiful story. I enjoyed Saenz’s writing style and the way he tells a story so now I really want to go back and read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

  3. the bookworm
    the bookworm says:

    The Inexplicable Logic of My Life sounds like a moving and worthwhile read. “Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood.”<-yes! Great review. Enjoy your weekend.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I thought it was very moving. It actually made me cry a few times, which doesn’t happen to me often. Thanks, hope you have a great weekend too!

  4. Jessica @ Strung out on Books
    Jessica @ Strung out on Books says:

    This book sounds really good! I’m curious about what tragedy happens to all three of them! Definitely adding this to my TBR! Lovely review!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks, it really was a moving read. Brought me to tears a number of times. If you enjoy books about families, you should enjoy this one 🙂

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