Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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

Published by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers on April 1, 2014

Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance

Pages: 359 Format: Paperback Source: Purchased

4/5 Stars

Image and Description Credit: Goodreads

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

How do I even put into words my feelings for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz? For the longest time I kept hearing such amazing things about it so I took a chance and bought it. Ari and Dante’s story wasn’t what I expected but it was a welcome surprise to say the least.

Let’s start with Aristotle, Ari for short. Our narrator who is very closed off from the world and struggling to find himself. He’s angry, keeps everything bottled up, and does not let people in. Dante is much the opposite. Talkative, open minded, and kind. Each of them represents a side, one dark the other light. They were the soul of this story and I loved them so much.

The importance of family, the way in which they interact, how everyone fits, etc., was such a big part of the plot. Both families are loving but have their own issues. Ari’s parents never talk about his brother in prison, keeping their own problems bottled up. His father is just as closed off as Ari. It only compounds his struggles. Dante’s family is much more open just as their son is but he wants to rebel in his own ways.

The cultural aspects of this book were handled extremely well. Ari, Dante, and their families are all Mexican and Sáenz explores this heritage through their similarities and differences. Dante with his lighter skin doesn’t consider himself Mexican enough. Also Dante’s openness about his sexuality was heartwarming. His willingness to experiment and express himself is so real.

The only issue I had with this book, which was so hard to pinpoint for me, was the quick succinct writing and dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad and I think it worked with the story, it just kind of through me the whole time I was reading. I feel like it messed with the flow of the narrative especially since it covered such a large span of time.

Overall Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz was a wonderful book. It’s an extremely honest look at life and how humans maneuver themselves through it. Filled with heart and hope as well as pain and suffering I strongly encourage everyone to pick this book up and read it. I know I didn’t regret it.

So have you read this one yet? How did you feel about the exploration of culture and sexuality within the text? Let me know all of your thoughts in the comments below!


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

  1. “For the longest time I kept hearing such amazing things about it” this is me for the past year (2 years? 3?) but alas still haven’t gone about it ahhh. But I’m happy to hear you liked the honest portrayal this story offers (not that I can really talk much about it).


  2. I’ve been hesitating to read this one for a while now, but your review might have just changed my mind! We actually had it in French at work and I was so tempted to start reading it, but I decided to wait till I could get it in English^^
    I enjoy how you wrote your review, stating what you like without gving anything away. To me, it actually matters you know? The format of a review and what the person has to say… Sometimes, I just lose interest and all of this to say, I did NOT lose interest reading yours!^^
    Your fellow Gaiman fan;)

    Liked by 1 person

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