Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT fiction

First Published: February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.


This cover is beautiful, the characters are beautiful, the writing is beautiful. This entire book is beautiful.

I don’t know where to start with this book. There are a thousand words and not one does it justice. There is a reason why the cover is covered with awards (though it’s kind of a shame because the cover is so stunning!). It was just amazing.

Taking a moment to think about it, there is not really a plot to this novel. This is not a bad thing. It flowed better than many books I’ve read with well thought out, detailed plots. This book is simple: Two, completely different characters on a journey of self-discovery. Nothing more is needed.

I adored both Aristotle and Dante. Okay, I know that I say “the characters were likeable” or something similar a lot but no. This is different. I wanted to give them hugs and tell them both everything will be alright and sit and chat and chill and watch the stars with them both. (Why are they only fictional?!) They were so different, yet similar, and I loved them both.

I put off buying this book for ages, I don’t know why. I regret it. I read this in less than a day and loved and cherished every poetic word on every single page. It wasn’t particularly fast paced, but it wasn’t slow either – because there isn’t really a plot it just flowed and I didn’t take note of the story pace. I just read.

I loved the focus on family that featured throughout this novel, and also the way Dante’s family accepted Ari even though he had a rougher background and Ari’s family accepted Dante. The love was so clear and honest and I wish that more books would include such caring family relationships because it was a pleasant change from reading about broken families or parents that don’t pay attention to their kids (not neglecting them, just not exactly showering them in affection either).

I must admit, when I first started and realised that it was written from Aristotle’s perspective I was surprised and wondered how it would work well. I think you may be able to tell that I loved this book by now and yes, it worked. It was so much better than I originally anticipated, but so was the story (although I have no idea what I was expecting!).

The LGBT theme throughout this novel is done well. It is not the sole focus of the book, as so many books with LGBT themes focus only on the relationship, whereas this focuses on the individuals and friendship, rather than love. It’s not ‘in your face’ for want of a better description – it’s subtle and successful. A lot of themes can be very overpowering (such as illness, death and grief), not just this one, and sometimes subtle and hidden is better than obvious. That’s not to say that keeping these themes obvious is not a) important and b) a bad thing. This just made a great change.

I feel like I’m running out of words to say about this book (I had very few to begin with). I would heartily recommend this to whoever wants a heartwarming contemporary about two completely different guys, their friendship and loving families.

110 percent 5/5 stars.

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