Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

AriTitle: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published: February 21st, 2012 (Simon & Schuster for Young Readers)
Pages: 359
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, LGBT
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Rating: Four Stars
Goodreads Summary:
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.
Cover Thoughts: This is the most gorgeous simple cover ever. I love how the cover plays into the book itself.
First Line: One summer I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke.
~First Thoughts~ 
Whose POV is this anyway?
After I discovered the secret that Aristotle and Dante is a singular point of view novel in the fourth chapter, I enjoyed it a lot more.
I’ve read so many good things about Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe. I couldn’t have been more excited to read it. It definitely held up to my expectations. From the first sentence, I was completely hooked to it. Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe is the perfect example of why I love character-driven novels. I don’t need action to be happening all the way through a novel. Aristotle and Dante Discover The The Secrets of The Universe is a story of friendship, identity, family, love and life. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story. I feel it’s written in the same vein of Stephen Chobosky’s novel Perks of Being A Wallflower, another coming-of-age novel I loved, with its simple, beautiful, thought provoking writing.
I read Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe fairly quickly in only two sittings captivated by the two characters. I liked how each section of Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe began with a title and a quote. They really gave a sense of the novel as it went on. There was such a beautiful poetic writing style that I loved.  I loved how Aristotle (known as Ari) and Dante became friends, it seemed really natural to me. Throughout Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe, both guys try to figure out life, themselves and each other.
I thought both Ari and Dante had such realistic problems that were portrayed great. There were a lot of identity problems for both characters which was incredibly well done. I understood Ari’s desire for his parents to acknowledge his brother as well as his own wanting to know him. He has two older twin sisters who he’s distanced from due to being born so far apart. Until Ari meets Dante, he seems to be just a loner distant and disconnected from everyone. Ari’s father went to the war before Ari was born and came back a changed man with haunted by the war. Ari has a desire for his father to reach out to him and it’s sad to watch it because I know it has to be hard on both sides. I thought the angst on Ari’s part was very well done, it could have come across as whiny, but it seemed less like angst and more like a boy just discovering himself and life.
I liked seeing Dante struggle with being a “real” Mexican and feeling like he didn’t fit in. Dante was a very clever, intelligent, sensitive and artistic character who’s completely comfortable with himself. I liked that he read poetry, drew and liked art. At times he seemed older than Aristotle and other times younger.
Although the summary states Ari is an angry teenager, I didn’t immediately sense any of that anger until halfway through Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe. His anger added another layer to him. He was extremely mad at himself, his parents, his siblings, and even Dante at times.
I liked how Aristotle acknowledged things, questioned things, tried to figure out who he was and grew so much as a person.. I loved his relationship with his mother and his sense of humor. I love how the two characters balanced each other in a way. I loved the playful banter Dante and his father did back and forth. I thought Ari and Dante’s parents had an interesting contrast to each other.
There was a fair amount of drama, but it wasn’t over-the-top drama. One of my favorite things in the novel is after Ari buys a truck and takes Dante to the desert to talk. This reminded me of another Young Adult novel called Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, in which the title character also takes someone to a desert. I loved seeing their quiet encounters in the night. They seemed to be the most real then.
I fell in love with Ari and Dante, they were complex, developed, emotional, realistic characters. They could have easily come across as the psuedo-intellectual and angst-ridden, woe is me characters, but they didn’t. I loved their interactions and Dante seeing Ari alone by himself. I liked seeing the change in medium that Ari and Dante take when Dante moves away. The letters were interesting and surprising at times at how much Dante revealed. I liked that Ari and Dante both had regular teenage lives, they went to school, they had jobs, they hung out and weren’t always with the other one. I liked that there relationship wasn’t always a perfect, uncomplicated one, but they fit together either way. I would have loved to see Dante’s perspective of the novel because he was a bit of a mystery that I loved.
I loved watching both guys grow up into men as they discovered who they are and some of the secrets of the universe together.
~Final Thoughts~
Aristotle and Dante was a very enjoyable book to read. It’s magical. Benjamine Alire Saenz captured Ari and Dante perfectly. I loved how thought provoking it was, how honest it seemed,and the rawness of each teenagers feelings. Before reading Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe, I sort of forgot what it felt like to read a book and not know what happens. I’m so glad Ari and Dante wasn’t spoiled for me and I got to read it without knowing anything about it that would have lessened my experience. While reading about Ari and Dante, I felt myself cheering for a certain ending relationship between the two boys. Throughout the entire novel I was kept guessing, on my toes, coming to one conclusion, then jumping to another, back and forth, until it was over. The ending was mostly satisfying, though an epilogue would have been wonderful.  I highly recommend Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe.

~Memorable Quotes~

I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hands.
The problem with my life is that it was someone else’s idea.
Yeah, I had all kinds of tragic reasons for feeling sorry for myself. Being fifteen didn’t help. Sometimes I thought that being fifteen was the worst tragedy at all.
I wasn’t very good at asking for help, a bad habit I inherited from my father.
Words were different when they lived inside you.
Did all boys feel alone?
Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

7 responses to “Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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