Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Not Entirely Spoiler Free 😉
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about this book. I’ve seen it’s cover on dozens on Instagram pages, websites and all over Facebook. Finally, I told myself that I had to see what all the fuss was about and I now understand. This book is AMAZING!
Written by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Aristotle and Dante is a coming of age story not just focused on a boy becoming a man but a boy learning about himself. There was so much to love about this story because Benjamin Saenz writes in such a relatable way that you can’t help but feel for the characters.
The story is told from Ari’s point of view where he explains his hatred of summer, people, school and life in general. Ari is an angry teen who prefers to be alone than to make the effort to have friends. While he loves his parents, he’s convinced that they don’t understand him and he doesn’t understand them. He’s a Mexican American living in El Paso in a community with other Latinos. He is the youngest of four by 12 years and that makes him feel even more alone. He has twin sisters who treat him like a son instead of a brother and a brother who is in prison. He barely remembers his brother and his parents never talk about him. That only fuels Ari’s anger.
Saenz paints a beautiful picture of a boy at odds with himself, angry with the world and hopeless. Then one day, Ari meets Dante at the community pool. Dante is also a Mexican American but more fair skinned and can’t really speak Spanish. Throughout the story there are moments when Dante doesn’t feel Mexican enough and Ari feels too Mexican, something I can relate to. Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim and soon they become friends, much to everyone’s surprise.
Ari then begins to see life a little differently as Dante shows him another side of the world. Dante is smart, artistic, creative, an avid reader, a hater of tennis shoes, lover of animals and a great swimmer. He says he’s crazy about his parents, something Ari finds odd but soon understands. It makes him want that bond with his parents. But Ari’s parents are more closed off and talking is not something they do. Dante’s parents, on the other hand, are open books.
Toward the end of the summer, on a rainy day, Dante is out in the middle of the street, trying to save an injured bird. He doesn’t see the oncoming car but Ari does and pushes him out of the way only to be struck himself. He wakes up in the hospital with broken legs and a fractured arm. Dante can’t stop apologizing to Ari and telling him what a hero he is. On top of that, Dante tells him his family is going to Chicago for a year. Ari is not happy.
And this is where their relationship changes as they drift apart and begin to experience teenage things like drugs, alcohol and girls on their own instead of together. This is also the time when Dante confesses via letter that he thinks he’s gay. Ari doesn’t know how to react to that.
When Dante returns the following summer, their friendship seems strained. But soon they start hanging out again and its almost like old times. That is until Dante kisses Ari. It becomes obvious in the story that Dante is in love with Ari, a sentiment that Ari doesn’t return. This drives a wedge between them. Dante tries to move on to another boy but while out with the other boy, he is accosted by four thugs and subsequently beaten for being gay.
This infuriates Ari and brings him to his breaking point. He goes after the thugs and after the boy Dante was with since he left him there to be beaten. While this is happening, Ari’s parents finally begin to open up to him and start talking about his brother. During the last few chapters it becomes painfully obvious that Ari is also in love with Dante.
This book is absolutely amazing and beautifully written. I finished the whole thing in one day and can’t wait to read more by this supremely talented author.
5 out of 5!!!