Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
At first I wasn’t going to write about this book because I have some mixed feelings but then I though maybe I should write about it since I have these mixed feelings. Anyway, here it goes.
First off, I should be clear that this is a good book. It was well written and gripping. I read it in less than 24 hrs. It’s about two guys (Aristotle and Dante) who become friends. They are both misfits and don’t really have other friends but other than that they aren’t very similar. Also they are Mexican-American which isn’t something I usually find in books.
Pretty much I would say that this is a ‘coming of age/discovering yourself book’. It is mostly about their friendship and how that develops and changes. Maybe it’s because I have never been a guy but some of the conversations they have and topics discussed made me uncomfortable but are definitely necessary to show their journey as they discover themselves and their sexuality. It’s all told from the perspective of Aristotle (Ari) who is not a very happy character. He gets along with his parents for the most part but there is this tension about his older brother who he can’t talk about and his dad who seems distant because he fought in Vietnam etc. Also I should mention that it is set in 1987.
One aspect I really appreciated in this book is the complexity of the parent-child relationships shown. Both Ari and Dante have very complex relationships with their parents and their parents even start to become friends with each other.
The book covers about a year (from one summer to the next) and all the events which happen although the majority of the school year is skimmed over and told through some letters.
Would I recommend this? I’m not really sure. I think I would. If you are anything like me, I think you should read this to be introduced to a different perspective. There was a happy ending but I guess this book just tries really hard not to fit into categories and stereotypes. This almost felt like the kind of book I would read for school in middle school (except for maybe all the um… drinking and smoking and such…) because it (at least for me) opened my eyes to a different perspective that I probably never would have contemplated. I want this book to be rated R but really it’s, probably just PG-13, I just wouldn’t want 13yr-olds to read this. Maybe PG-15. Is that a thing? Also apparently this is a ‘young adult’ novel which makes sense.
Also in looking for a cover image I learned that there is a lot of fan art for this book. If you read it I think you will understand why. There is also a sequel coming out (next year?) since a lot of people really liked it.