Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz [book review]

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: February 21st 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be

I went into Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe with limited knowledge. I knew it was about friendship and GLBT subjects. I had seen some good things about it and I wanted another book for Bout of Books so I picked it up.

Aristotle or Ari is 15 and unhappy. He lives in El Paso, Texas. He is Mexican American. He speaks English and Spanish. It’s 1987. He doesn’t have many friends. He meets Dante, who also does not have many friends. They become friends and grow and learn things.

I will be honest: I almost didn’t finish this book. There was something about the writing and the beginning felt so slow to me. I’m so glad I didn’t stop reading it, because while it’s not a favorite, I really enjoyed it! It took me a while to get into the flow of Ari’s head and for me the writing didn’t feel lyrical (as the description states). Once I got used to the voice, I got more into the story and it flowed a lot quicker, which made me more interested in what was happening.

The whole story is in Ari’s point of view and it’s first person. Ari is lost, lonely, and confused. In other words, he’s a typical teenager. He has issues with his father, a quiet Vietnam vet with his own problems. His mother is always worried about him and he wants space. He misses a brother he doesn’t know. A lot of the story focuses on his relationship with his father and brother. I loved seeing how much his father loved him even though it was an obvious struggle for him to be open about his experiences and feelings. When they do open up to each other and talk about things, it’s so lovely and heartwarming. I liked Ari’s mom, too. She is a teacher and she has already lost a son to prison, so she’s worried about Ari’s teenage angst and wants the best for him. Ari’s relationship with her was reluctantly sweet and I loved it.

Dante is a fun character. He’s smart and he’s freer and more open about how he feels. I love that at first Ari wasn’t sure if the friendship was worth it, because he’s so sour. Dante is just a positive and hopeful person, which is refreshing. He’s crazy about his parents, which is so nice. He’s different and he knows he’s different. I like that Ari knows that Dante is different and while he thinks about it, it never gives him pause. I enjoyed when Dante was open about anything awkward and it kind of weirded Ari out.

Aristotle and Dante together are fun. Their story developed a bit differently than I expected. There’s a big emphasis on friendship, and I loved their friendship! There were a few things that felt off to me. I liked what happened in the end, but what led up to the ending was kind of weird to me. I also wanted a bit more from the ending, but it still left me happy!

The book does deal with difficult subjects and I think it deals with them very well. Fitting in, family, sexuality, growing up, and so much more.  It was heartwarming and heartwrenching. I had a few issues, but it left me feeling warm and fuzzy!

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For a book I almost didn’t finish, I really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I had issues with pacing and a few other details, but overall I think it was a lovely book. I don’t see it being a book I’d read again, but I definitely think it’s a book worth reading! If you like discovery, growth, well-written families, friends and more, you will probably enjoy this book. I think most people will enjoy it!

You can learn more about Benjamin Alire Sáenz here!

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9 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz [book review]

  1. I have seen so many positive and gushing reviews about this book that it’s sort of nice to see one that takes a step back and shares some issues. I think the pacing thing is always good to know upfront, and the fact that you continued on and ended up enjoying it I think is great for other readers to know because oftentimes people struggle with deciding when to give up. Of course, I’m one of those crazy people who never DNF so I would finish it either way, but that’s not the case for everyone! Even though it didn’t blow you away, I’m still extremely curious about this one and it’s high on my TBR list. Thanks for the great review Katy 🙂

    • Yeah, everyone LOVES it, but it wasn’t flawless for me. It kind of felt dangerous posting about it, haha. I hope you love it, though! I will be interested to see your thoughts on it when you read it!

  2. The pacing irritated me too. Sometimes it was painfully slow and I know what you mean about almost not finishing it, but I’m so happy I read it, it’s one of my favorite books of 2013 ❤ Though while Dante was a breath of fresh air (seriously, brooding is still a trend, wtf), I enjoyed Ari more. So glad you liked the book, though!

    • I had some slight parent issues too, especially near the end of the book. I don’t want to say too much in comments, though. But I am so glad I stuck with it. I think I also liked Ari more than Dante, but I agree that Dante was different and fun!

  3. Pingback: Goodbye October! [recap] | a blighted one

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