Book Reviews · Young Adult

Book Review: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was poetic and painful.
One of the things that frustrates me the most about life is that I will never know what it’s like to be a boy. I can guess at how they think and what experiences they go through, but I will never actually know because I am just not a boy. This book was alien to me in that sense, but it was so goddamn beautiful.

My thoughts on the characters:
Ari could piss me off in a matter of a single line, and do the exact opposite in the same manner. I loved him so much I almost couldn’t handle reading his coming-of-age journey. He is so brave and angry and angsty and everything that embodies a fifteen-year-old boy that I couldn’t help loving him. He often states throughout the book that he doesn’t fit well with others or that he just likes being alone, but I love that he’s wrong and that he is so thoughtful and introspective. I love that he likes to fight and I love that he’s a smartass and I love that he loves without knowing he’s loving.
Dante stole my heart immediately. He almost never pissed me off, unlike Ari, but he did try too hard a little sometimes and it made me feel such pain that he gave so much and Ari could almost never reciprocate. He has such eccentricities and deep philosophical issues that it hurt me having to watch him struggle. I love him as much as I love Ari. I love him because he cares about birds and poetry and swimming and laughing and caring if other people laugh. I love him because he loves fiercely and devoutly.
I loved all of Dante’s and Ari’s parents. I loved that they got along well and were friends, but had their own differences and such well-developed personalities and backgrounds. I loved that they were so real and present throughout their kid’s ordeals, or as Ari put it, “I knew when I opened my eyes, they would still be there. Dante and I were cursed with parents who cared.”

My thoughts on the plot:
The single fact that this takes place in 1987 set the stage for me for just how good this plot was going to be. This book has so much happen I almost can’t believe it’s less than 400 pages long. It starts out with Dante and Ari meeting at the pool and then develops over the course of a summer, than it flashes forward through most of year, and it goes through another summer. The dynamics of their relationship are fantastic and they discover a lot about themselves over that summer that they become best friends. I didn’t expect the dangers they get themselves into and I loved that Saenz didn’t skip over the traditionally boring parts of life after a big event occurs. I loved how the boys grew up together and acknowledged the difference during the second summer. I loved the way their families interfered with them and the mysteries both boys try to figure out about their families. I loved the many conflicts they had to face and I especially loved the ending.

I couldn’t handle this book. I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t stop the tremble in my hands in reaction to the boys’ reality and the truths they face about themselves. This book was so difficult to read, emotionally, because it’s so honest. I would recommend everyone read this, read it again, and then live their lives knowing something as wonderful as this book exists in our world.

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