Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by Simon & Schuster on February 21, 2012
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+
Rating: 5 stars
A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
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.
“Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
Oh my goodness, this book was good. Like, really good. Like, CRYING-BUCKETFULS-OF-TEARS-BECAUSE-IT-WAS-JUST-TOO-BEAUTIFUL kind of good.
Anyway, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe left me with many questions, the biggest one being: Why on earth did I not read this sooner? I mean, really. My favorite genre is contemporary, and this seems exactly like the kind of book I would love. I loved everything about it – the amazing writing style, the complex characters, the relatable plot. I am completely and totally in love with this book.
Aristotle “Ari,” our protagonist, is an angry, confused teen trying to deal with being a teenager, and all the hardships that come along with it. I fell completely in love with him within the first few chapters, not just because of his background and personality, but also because his voice really resembled the thoughts of a teenage boy in real life. He was so honest and personal and descriptive about everything that was happening, and I immediately got sucked in.
I also really loved Dante, with all his fun personality quirks and great attitude. And seriously, I related to him SO MUCH throughout the story, and we have so much in common. I mean, seriously. Love of swimming? Check. Hatred of shoes? Check. Love of reading? Check. The fact that he would save a bird from being crushed in the middle of the street? Check.
Oh, and can I please just say something about the parents in this novel? Because, guys, they were awesome. There are two married couples, Ari’s and Dante’s parents, and they were completely in love with each other. They were all so beautiful and sweet and I loved the relationships between the sons and parents. Finally, a YA book with amazing parents!
My favorite part of the novel was being able to watch the characters’ friendship grow and develop over time. The pacing of the story was pretty slow, which I actually really enjoyed because it let me get to know the characters better. It spanned over a period of about two years, which I liked because normally those kinds of novels have more character development, and it’s really fun to see the “before and after” of each of the characters.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the plot was that it was primarily driven by the friendship between Ari and Dante, rather than the romance. Though I do love a good romance, I think a well-developed and realistic friendship is something YA needs to have a lot more of.
The writing style was absolutely gorgeous. It was very simplistic and crisp, with no fluff whatsoever. It also had lots of dialogue, which I loved. It reminded me a bit of Stephen Chbosky’s prose, just to give you a bit of an idea.
I was completely blown away by this book. It was such a breath-taking and awe-inspiring story, and in my opinion, everyone should read it. This book is about growing up, family, friendship, acceptance, and love. A must-read novel for all ages!
So….let’s talk. What did you guys think about this book? Do you have any similar book recommendations for me? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 🙂