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

5/5 Stars

The only word I had for this book at the end, the only one I could muster up, was wow. This book seriously floored me. I was trying not to get my hopes to high for this one because everyone was loving it and the last book I read that everyone was loving turned out to be a flop for me. Even after turning page after page, I still couldn’t bear to get too attached. But, if I had known that I never had to fear disappointment, I would have invested my full emotional spectrum right from the start. If only time travel existed so I could send myself a note a few days back in time and, despite all my gross sobbing of what I can assure you was pure happiness, let myself know I was safe all along. But, such is life. So, now I have the honor of telling you. Don’t worry; you won’t be disappointed. Invest wholly in this book.

This book is about, which I’m sure many of you are already aware, a young Mexican-American boy, Aristotle, who is having a hard time fitting in until he meets another Mexican-American boy, Dante. Aristotle, Ari, is having a hard time dealing with adolescences, but he is also, unknowingly, having a hard time defining his sexuality. Dante, on the other hand, figures out quite quickly who he is and doesn’t feel shameful about any of it. This book grapples with tough topics, and Sáenz writes about these topics and these two boys beautifully.

First off, I’ll start with the simplicity that Sáenz writes with. This is a quick, easy read on the surface, but the story that Sáenz unfolds is heavier than his writing style would have you believe. I am not criticizing in any way his writing style. I thought it fit exceptionally well with the story he weaves. This is a book that is simultaneously easy to fly through and not easy to fly through. I found myself having to take breaks because the feels this writer was giving me were all too real. The story is developed perfectly and at no points is ever overbearing or lacking. Sáenz writes with intensity, purpose, and a fantastic understanding of how to keep the reader interested.

Not only is the story good, the characters are phenomenal. Sáenz writes adolescent boys as adolescent boys really are. He does not shy away from anything, but dives into topics that are often skimmed over in YA books. I applaud him for this. He made these two boys seem absolutely real. There was no wise beyond their years or in a weird pretending to be acting older than they are personality. Ari and Dante are teenage boys that have a bounteous amount of general teen angst, too many questions that they can’t answer, and families that reflect actual families.

Speaking of families, this is the first YA book I’ve read in awhile that has two families that seem exceptionally real. Each person in the family is their own person and Dante and Ari are left to wonder who their parents used to be and what brought them to this point. It was such an interesting perspective to actually see the teens in a YA book scrutinize the people that are their parents. And, also, both families are loving and caring. THANK YOU SÁENZ FOR MAKING THEM ACCEPTING OF THEIR CHILDREN. I just can’t get over how absolutely real these characters are. I’m amazed.

Not only does this book have all of these remarkable and wonderful things going for it, it also focuses entirely on POC characters. I am so elated about this. It’s so hard to find YA books, or even books in general that solely focus on characters that are all a race that isn’t White/Caucasian, especially that takes place in the US. I am so exited about this. But, not only does it deal with this topic that is a minority in the reading world here in the US, Sáenz ALSO tackles the topic of homosexuality. Like this book is so progressive, and I am so happy, and I can’t contain my joy that this book is so popular and that so many people are reading it. It is such an important and enjoyable text that deserves every ounce of publicity it’s been getting.

So, now that I’ve got all the good out, is there anything that didn’t go over so well for this book? Well, to answer this question easily, no. The only thing that I can point out that was mildly irritating was the blatant misspellings and word order mix-ups that the editor should have easily caught. Other than that, I literally can’t bring myself to say anything bad about this book. It was beautiful and heart wrenching and marvelous and real.

So, after I’ve said all these praises, I urge you to read this book. I urge you so wholly to read this book. You will not be disappointed. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to check out my tumblr page and feel free to add me on goodreads!

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7 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

  1. This one has been on my to-read list. A friend of mine and her 15 year old daughter both read it and they both loved it. Great review. I am hoping to read this one this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

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