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!

Review: Golden by Jessi Kirby

Golden coverGolden by Jessi Kirby
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date:  May 14th 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series:  n/a!

Goodreads description:Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference

Parker lives according to her mom’s should. She should study all the time, work hard, be valedictorian, get a scholarship, and become a doctor. She should devote her life to her future. Parker’s best friend Kat has a different idea of should. She thinks Parker should do something unexpected, something wild. Senior year is ending and life as Parker knows it is changing. When she finds the journal of a missing icon of the community, she begins to find her own version of should.

Each year an English teacher assigns his senior students a journal to write about what they plan to do with their lives. Ten years later he mails students their journals. They get to look back and see how much they’ve changed and what was important to them in the past. This year, Parker is his assistant and mails the journals for him. What she doesn’t expect to see is Julianna Farnetti’s journal. She knows she shouldn’t read the journal, but she can’t resist. Julianna and Shane were golden and special. They went missing ten years ago at the end of their senior year. Everyone thinks they died and ended up at the bottom of the lake because that’s where the car they were in was found.

Reading journal entries written in the weeks before Julianna’s famous disappearance, Parker finds herself relating to the words of a town legend. Julianna followed expectations but wanted more for herself. The more Parker reads, the closer she feels to the missing girl. She becomes emotionally involved with Julianna’s story. Parker also learns more about Julianna’s life and starts questioning the circumstances of her disappearance. With the help of Kat and Trevor, the boy Parker’s always wanted, she seeks out to find the truth.

I like Parker a lot. She’s easy to relate to and feets realistic. The way she interacts with Kat, Trevor, and her mom feel real. I got frustrated with her for not being able to see certain things, but only because I was really invested. Throughout the story, she learns a lot about herself. She decides to make changes in her life and go after what she really wants. Parker really looks inside herself and definitely grows. She makes mistakes, she accepts them and she moves on.

Parker’s relationships add a lot to the story. I really liked Kat, too. All fictional best friends are not equal, and Kat is exciting and wild but very supportive. It’s easy to see that she really wants the best for her friend. I am also very fond of Trevor. He is genuine and sweet. In the beginning, he kind of seemed like a jerk but he quickly grew on me. I love the romance in this book, and that the book isn’t only about romance. Parker’s mom was infuriating at times, and there were door slamming arguments that really added authenticity to the high school age.

There were a few things that weren’t perfect for me that are hard to talk about without spoiling. Some things didn’t seem realistic to me, which was annoying but I still loved this book. When I took a break from reading, it stayed on my mind the whole time. It’s a book that I ended up dwelling on in a good way. I can see myself pushing it on friends and wanting to reread it sometime! I also want to read Jessi Kirby’s other books, In Honor and Moonglass now!

4.5 star rating

Check out Jessi Kirby’s website and twitter!