Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

 

Phew, that’s quite a title. Also, THAT COVER. Is. Beautiful.

Ari and Dante are two fifteen year old boys who meet while swimming (or attempting to in Ari’s case) and instantly become friends. They, like the philosophers for which they are named, are highly introspective. Their quest to understand their universe and themselves is constant, and it is through each other that they mature and become who they are meant to be.

SPOILERS (so scroll to the bottom if you don’t want them):

For Dante, that means gaining confidence in his art and coming out as gay, and for Ari, that primarily means understanding his family and how to handle his relationships with them. By the end, Ari confronts his parents about his brother, and Dante experiments in many different areas of life, and at the very end of the book they end up together.

This book does many things well. MANY.

For one, it is set in a Latino community, but it isn’t stated at the outset, which leads me to one of the book’s points: the Latino community may have some different cultural practices, but all in all, it is similar to any other and less separated than many believe.

The writing is beautiful. I mean, I was hooked. I wanted to know why Ari’s parents wouldn’t talk about his brother. I wanted to know why his dad wouldn’t talk. As I watched them process these scars together, my emotions were riding the feels roller coaster.

The attention to detail is amazing; I love it when authors pay attention to name meanings like Saudade, and how Saenz wove it into the story, tying it in with Ari’s desire to know his father and brother. I mean, this was a good book. I read this book in two days.

The book focuses on gay relationships a lot, and I agree when it says that we should not beat up or abandon gay people–that we should love them even if we don’t agree or understand. While Ari and Dante are best friends, and Dante clearly wants to be more than friends, I am not sure that I am convinced enough that his feelings are reciprocated. I can see where Saenz is coming from, but I need a bit more build to their relationship for it not to feel forced.

SPOILER FREE:

The rest of the book is pretty beautiful. The middle felt somewhat repetitive, but I think that works towards helping the reader comprehend Ari’s depression. It also effectively shows love in its different forms, and guilt and scars and their relationship with each other.

This book was a roller coaster of emotions, and man, was it deep. I give it a 4/5 stars.

 

Image credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiP6eW1_PXMAhUIVD4KHSRzBq8QjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbooks.simonandschuster.com%2FAristotle-and-Dante-Discover-the-Secrets-of-the-Universe%2FBenjamin-Alire-Saenz%2F9781442408937&bvm=bv.122676328,d.aXo&psig=AFQjCNEy46EeT1k9DrXaiNu2WAjHnwVMgg&ust=1464291328276544

 

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