Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Book Review

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Synopsis: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.  via Amazon

Overall Rating: 4 stars

Trigger Warning for: Homophobia, violence

Pros:

  • Well-developed characters
  • Very relatable storyline
  • Beautiful language

Cons:

  • Tears??
  • I wanted it to be gayer

In-Depth Review: Warning: May contain spoilers.

This is a book that I picked up solely because of the recommendations that I’d seen on Tumblr. Quite frankly, it’s not the type of book I would have picked up on my own, but I have to say I’m very glad I did. Despite its lack of sci-fi/fantasy action (usually the genre I’m drawn to), this book had me more engaged and probably more vocally responsive than almost any book I’ve read since middle school.

The story follows Ari, a boy who hates his own name, has no friends, and is basically looking to pave his way in the world. The thing about Ari is that I found I instantly connected with him. I don’t know if it’s because of my own poor social skills or simply the beauty of the writing, but I found myself living out the story with him, discovering friendship with him, and basically living the world through a whole new set of eyes. This is also why, upon meeting Dante, the reader automatically feels a connection to his character as if meeting your own best friend.

The most pleasant surprise in the story though were the side characters. I expected Ari and Dante to be well-rounded characters, but I never expected to cry over their parents or want to know their classmates. I have to say that it’s especially impressive how well Sáenz brought the adults to life in a genre that’s infamous for poor or absent parents and strained parent-child bonds.

Final Verdict: When people argue that young adult books are quality reads no matter your age, they’re arguing for books like Aristotle and Dante.

Favorite Quotes: There were so many, but I won’t spam you with all of them

“My mom would have said that they were just going through a phase. Pretty soon they would get their brains back. Sure they would.

Maybe life was just a series of phases—one phase after another after another. Maybe, in a couple of years, I’d be going through the same phase as the eighteen-year-old lifeguards. Not that I really believed in my mom’s phase theory. It didn’t sound like an explanation—it sounded like an excuse.”

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”

“I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.”

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