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

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
I hated being volunteered. The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea.

I've been trying to review this book in my head for a week and I always get stuck with the summary. This is not an easy book to review, not because it is deep or mysterious or happens to  have a spoiler you absolutely should not reveal, but just because this is a book more about the journey of two beautiful characters, and a journey cannot be summarized in any easy way.

I had wanted to read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, ever since I saw this gorgeous cover and spunky title. But like many other books I want to read, it found its place in the dusty never-trodden folds of Mt TBR. Until I found myself in a rut for most of December, and remembered Jenny's review of this book. I found it on Scribd and settled down with the book, hoping it would save me from a rut. It did more than that.

Aristotle, or Ari, as he likes to be called, is a somewhat-angry teen who is more like his quiet, soft-spoken, PTSD-suffering father than his cheerful happy mother. He wants to understand his father better, but his father isn't keen to talk much. Dante, on the other hand, is a know-it-all, who makes up rules for everything in life and expects things to go his way. When the two boys meet one day at a swimming pool, they hit it off immediately, and become best friends. But when Dante moves to Chicago for a year, Ari doesn't quite behave as if he misses him. He is mostly confused by how he feels.

If I didn't know anything about this book, I would have been even more wowed by how Benjamin Alire Sáenz tells the story of Aristotle and Dante. But, this was still a seriously awesome book. Aristotle and Dante are at the age when boys are exploring their sexuality. They think about dating and meet girls, and learn things along the way about themselves and their friendship. Dante, being the more open person, reveals his feelings easily. Ari, who is the narrator of the book, isn't much into understanding himself, even in his own thoughts. He doesn't believe that he could be a great person that other people love and respect.

But Ari made for the perfect narrator. His confusion is our confusion too. At times, I could see what his thoughts were hinting at, but since our narrator refuses to pursue those ideas, I doubted my theories. When I finished reading this book, I wanted to reread it - this time, armed with complete knowledge of the characters, so that I could look at their behavior better.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a satisfying coming-of-age story. By the end of the book, they learn one of the most important facts about themselves that they wouldn't have learned without each other, or at least not until much later. Moreover, I was super happy to come across two teens who obviously and openly loved their parents. I know real-life teens who adore their parents, but the teens in many books either hate their parents, think their parents are not important, or love their parents but don't ever share that opinion.


I read this ebook on Scribd.

18 comments:

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

I love the title and the cover too! The book sounds terrific!

Alex (Sleepless Reader) said...

I'm a sucker for boy's coming of age books, and now that I have a boy-toddler of my own they take on a new importance. This books made it to a lot of best-of-2014 lists - made me curious about it.

Aarti said...

I really loved this one, too. I thought it was such a great contrast, with Ari so tightly wound and Dante exactly the opposite.

ebookclassics said...

Great review! I really want to read this book now. The relationship between the teens and their parents sounds really sweet. I love the title and cover too.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

>>I was super happy to come across two teens who obviously and openly loved their parents.


Aw, yeah! It's always the trope that teenagers fight with their parents all the time, but that isn't universal by any means. I was still crazy about my parents when I was a teenager, and a bunch of my friends were too. Nice to see it reflected in fiction.

Belle Wong said...

I love that cover, and what a great title! It sounds like a good read.

Sam_TinyLibrary said...

I'm glad you reviewed this one. There's so much YA out there on blogs and most of it has glowing reviews, so I never know what to try. But I trust your opinion :)

Athira / Aths said...

I'm so glad that the book was worth the beautiful cover and title!

Athira / Aths said...

You should certainly check this one out then! It's pretty sweet without being silly or sappy, and very realistic.

Athira / Aths said...

Exactly! That is a great observation! I liked how they came together despite those differences. Most often, the differences are what keeps a lot of teens apart.

Athira / Aths said...

It certainly was!

Athira / Aths said...

I am not too much a fan of YA. I certainly enjoy them, but can never relate to them. This one was just very easy to relate to and understand.

Athira / Aths said...

Exactly! I get that a lot of teens have the 'I can conquer the world' thought, and good for them too, but I know that they still love their parents, even if they are annoyed by them sometimes. This is nice to see in this book!

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you enjoy this book, if you get to it!

Lisa Sheppard said...

How wonderful to find just the book to bring you out of a reading rut!

literaryfeline said...

Until you mentioned this book, I hadn't heard of it. I agree, the title and cover are beautiful. And now your review has me wanting to add this book to my wish list. I want to be inside Ari's head too. Thanks for this great review.

Athira / Aths said...

I agree!

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you enjoy it too if you choose to read it!