Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz- Review
Aristotle (Ari) doesn’t have any idea of who he is or what he wants. He feels like he is drifting through his life. His parents keep him at a distance. His brother is in prison and no one will talk about it with him. He meets Dante at the pool one day and his life begins to change. He still struggle through life, trying to find his place and make sense of things but he has a companion now. His relationship with Dante expands and moves forward. In the end both boys grow, both find their place in the outer world and inside their own worlds.
What I loved:
I loved Dante and Ari’s characters. Both of them were very relatable. I felt a connection to both of them. Ari was our main protagonist and I understood him from the very beginning. He is angry, he is scared and he is lost. Ari is real. He isn’t written as overdramatic. He is written as someone who wants answers, who wants someone to trust him with information, as someone who wants to matter.
Dante is fun, he is smart. The way he talks with Ari feels beyond his age but I liked the introspective nature he brought to the story. I felt like he opened up not only Ari but me as a reader as well. He allowed the book to be brought to a higher level. Dante allowed himself and Ari to grow.
I liked the way that sexuality as handled in this book. Dante comes to terms with being gay quite quickly. He figures out who is attracted to and he accepts it. There is a hint of what he wants from Ari but he doesn’t force anything. One moment comes and goes but he doesn’t resent Ari for his choice or his apprehension. He lets Ari determine who he is and lets him have the time to do that, which is exactly what Ari needs. Dante knows Ari and that is made plain throughout the story.
I think that is what I liked best about this book was that this felt real and tangible. Nothing felt like it didn’t belong. This story was about two boys growing up and coming to terms with how they were as people. It was a true and strong journey. It was a journey we all can relate to. Sometimes these stories can take a turn that feels too neat and easy. Nothing for these two was neat and easy. I liked that aspect. Growing up is not easy and it was nice to see that portrayed in a true way.
What I was just okay with:
I didn’t have any real issues with this book. I did feel like the storyline with Ari’s brother could have been more solid at times. I felt like it was dragged out, revealed and kind of left hanging afterward. Then again this book was told over a short time period, we wouldn’t see the full effect of learning about his brother’s crime and its forever effect on Ari in this span of time.
What I wish was different:
I can’t think of anything that stood out as needing to be changed. The pacing was great, the character development was perfect and the story overall was engaging and made me want to read more about these two.
I gave this book a full five stars on Goodreads. I raced through it, wanting to learn more about these two boys. I wanted to see them grow and develop. It was one of those books I found anytime to read. If you enjoy coming of age stories this one is one of the best I have read.
“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.” (pg. 8)
“Words were different when they lived inside of you.” (pg. 31)
“He looked so happy and I wondered about that, his capacity for happiness. Where did that come from? Did I have that kind of happiness inside me? Was I just afraid of it?” (pg. 241)
“To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.” ( pg. 324)