Rummanah Aasi
  I've had Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, on my reading list for quite sometime. I moved it up my list this year after it was awarded the Printz Honor, Stonewall Book Award, and the Pura Belpre Award. I'm so glad that I didn't delay any longer in picking up the book. It is an excellent and thought provoking read.

Description: 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.

Review: Brilliant, simple, poetic, and profound, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is no doubt one of the best books I've read all year. Most of the reviews I've read on this book focus on the character's exploration of their sexual identity, which in my opinion is just the tip of the iceberg. I think it would be more accurate to say that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe encompasses all aspects of our identity from our socially constructed roles of being a man or a woman to our cultural identity which we may embrace or ignore. What is astonishing is that all of these huge epiphanies sneak up on us subtly as we are swept away by fantastic characters and an engaging plot.
  The summer of 1987 is going to be a banal summer for Ari, short for Aristotle, filled with the usual disconnect from his family who refuses to talk about their family secrets and spending most of his time alone. Ari doesn't know why his older brother is incarcerated, since his parents and adult sisters refuse to talk about it. His father, a Vietnam veteran, is always aloof and keeps his war experience in Vietnam locked up inside. On a whim, Ari heads to the town swimming pool, where he meets Dante, a boy he's never met offers to teach him to swim. This single moment will redefine both characters though they might not be aware of it. 
  Dante is the exact opposite of Ari. He is self-assured, open in expressing his emotions, and artistic. Unlike Ari, Dante knows what he wants from life. The two develop an easy yet deep friendship, ribbing each other about who is more Mexican, discussing life's big questions, and wondering when they'll be old enough to take on the world. They are the type of friends who can sit comfortably in a moment of silence without the need for someone to fill it. The friendship between Ari and Dante is my favorite part of the book. It grows and evolves naturally to love and brings their families closer. Two events in Ari's and Dante's lives makes them, especially Ari, look at their world and themselves differently. Things come nicely together as Ari, adding up the parts of his life, begins to define himself. There were many moments that made me teary eyed in this book, many happy than sad. I could easily picture these characters, even the secondary ones that are finely nuanced and fleshed out. In the end I finished this book with a huge grin on my face. I highly recommend Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe if you are in the mood for an excellent realistic fiction read.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking, and drug usage. Recommended for strong Grade 8 readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Vast Field of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Getting It by Alex Sanchez
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    This is in no way related to the Pirate's Wish series (I can't remember the name of the first book) right? They just have similar covers? This sounds like an amazing story Rummanah, especially the friendship-turned-more between Ari and Dante, it just seems like a really beautiful relationship:) Fabulous review!


  2. @Jenny: I think the title you're thinking of is Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clark which has a similar backdrop and it's fantasy. Aristotle and Dante was released earlier in 2012 I think. Definitely read it if you've got a chance, Jenny!


  3. I've been wondering about this one. It's on my list -- especially since it's on the Read for a Lifetime list this year. Thanks!


  4. I agree that this story is much wider than it initially seems. It's more than just them figuring out their sexual identities, I never saw it like that.
    It's one of those gorgeous little books that sneak up on you when you don't expect it and completely enchant you with their quiet beauty.
    This is a fantastic book, and your review is so lovely. :)


  5. Candace Says:

    I really liked this one too! I thought the sexual exploration aspect was quite light and other aspects were focused on more thoroughly. Very powerful and beautiful novel. Lovely review!


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