Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
What a beautiful, poetic little story.
Aristotle is a conflicted teenage boy who’s struggling with understanding himself, his parents, and his brother. He’s never had a friend, but isn’t like the other boys; he think they’re dumb and can’t relate. Then he meets Dante, and suddenly he has a friend.
This is a story of love, friendship, loyalty, teenage identity, and what it means to grow up.
I loved the characters; Ari and Dante are both really well developed and complex, and they definitely push and complement one another. Ari isn’t your typical boy, and I really enjoyed hearing his internal struggles and getting into his head. Some of the fights and conversations he has with Dante and his parents are very realistic (though somewhat annoying because I’m too old for that kind of banal drama).
This book is more focused on character development than plot development, which I really enjoyed. Even though the book is from Ari’s POV, everyone in the book grows and matures and his relationships with those people evolve in such a beautiful, natural way.
I also really, really loved the parents in this novel. I had a rant video on my booktube channel about how parent relationships in YA novels are usually lacking (video here if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uPcQNs4BXU), but in this novel, the parents are very much present, dynamic, and there for their children (and the other boy as well!). I was so impressed and happy to see it not only done, but done well.
This book is also a really great diverse read; it has LGBTQ+ elements, and both characters are Mexican-Americans (in the late 1980s).
I didn’t absolutely love the writing; part of it I did because it felt really poetic, but other times I just felt like details were repeated over and over again. And as much as I was hardcore loving the main love story, I also didn’t fully believe it; what are the odds these two find each other, especially in that time and place, and as much as I loved Ari’s growth as a character and his development of his feelings and understanding himself, I wasn’t totally sold that he was.
Overall, I liked the book a lot; it was quick and fun and I loved the characters and the message, but I wasn’t in absolute love with it.