Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young People

Genre: YA, contemporary, coming of age, queer lit

Source: library (audio)

Publication Date: February 21, 2012

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison and an uncommunicative father who suffers from PTSD. Dante is a smart kid who is crazy about his parents. When they meet at the pool one summer, they soon become best friends. But where life and tragedy doesn’t separate them, Ari’s anger and uncommunicative nature may do it for them. They must learn to trust one another and themselves in order to discover the secrets of the universe.

This was a super sweet book, which is funny because the main character, Ari, is not a super sweet character. He’s very angry and closed off. Even though the book is told in his first person voice, he doesn’t share a lot about himself and his feelings. The entire book is very sparse and short in the way it’s written, echoing Ari’s nature.

But the relationship between the boys is magical. They are drawn together like magnets and their joy at being with each other just bubbles over. I loved watching them navigate their relationship and growing was wonderful. While there are definitely fits and starts and places where they stumble, but it’s a great journey that they make.

I read this book for two reasons. One, I knew it was queer literature and that’s my special interest. Second, the audio book was read by Lin Manuel Miranda. And both were great. Okay, I’m getting into kind spoilery territory, so if you don’t want any spoilers, don’t read below.

spoiler break

Reading this, I began to think that this was going to be a one sided love story. One of the characters falls in love with the other, but the other didn’t reciprocate. And that was disappointing to me, because I don’t like reading stories like that. I’ve been in that situation, and I want happy endings. But, in the end, it turned out the way I wanted, so it made me happy.

And, as always, Lin Manuel Miranda was great.

Yes, I recommend it. It’s a great coming of age story and a really good love story. I was almost in tears at the end. Happy tears. It’s a great book.

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