If you are looking for a great book to share with a young person this summer, I recommend Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World. Marked by a combination of page-turning storytelling and theological depth, it is full of romance, mystery and a risky quest: everything you might want in a great summer read. At the heart of the book stands the question: What claim does the suffering of strangers make on us? Or as the book’s main character puts it, “How do we go about living when there is so much suffering?”

Marcelo Sandoval is a 17-year-old looking forward to his senior year in high school. Living with something akin to Asperger’s syndrome, Marcelo has spent his life learning step by step how to do things that many people learn intuitively: how to read facial expressions, how to interpret sarcasm and slang, and how to imagine what another person might be feeling or thinking. He’s good with animals, hears music playing in his head, feels most comfortable adhering to a predictable schedule and, like many on the autism spectrum, nurtures a “special interest.” Marcelo’s special interest is God.

Marcelo pursues his interest by praying, studying holy books, going to mass and meeting regularly with his spiritual mentor Rabbi Heschel (she’s no relation to Abraham Heschel, though she does loan Marcelo God in Search of Man). He is cherished by his family, his teachers and mentors, and the terminally ill children his mother cares for in a hospital.