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

I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Series: Aristotle and Dante #1

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Published: February 2012

Pages: 369


Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison.

Dante is a know-it-all who has a unique perspective on life.

When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they develop 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 the universe, themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

This incredibly moving and powerful Printz Honor Book follows two teen boys learning to open themselves up to love, despite the world being against them.

My Thoughts…

This book had been on my TBR for a very long time, and it is a firm favourite in the bookish community. So, when it was made available on NetGalley again for a limited time ahead of the sequel coming out later this year, I jumped at the chance to finally read it. And I am so, so glad I did.

Aristotle and Dante is a beautiful, tender and heart-wrenching coming of age story. I sometimes struggle to get really drawn into contemporary YA nowadays, but I had no such problem with this book. I was glued to this book from the very first page, right up to the end.

Ari and Dante are, for different reasons, two very complex and compelling characters. Seeing all events unfold through Ari’s eyes, hearing his inner struggles first hand, made it almost impossible not to sympathise with him. Was he always making the best choices or behaving blamelessly? Oh, no. But then, he shouldn’t really have to, and I was glad to get to know a teenage boy who actually faces the full struggle of living his teenage years in very difficult circumstances. His emotions are all over the place, but I found myself really understanding his pain and his struggle to communicate this to those around him.

By contrast, I found it harder to get really attached to Dante, but that is probably because he is always filtered by Ari. Still, he was also beautifully drawn, revealing his complexity and his inner torments only a little at a time. Their friendship is one of the sweetest, most tender friendships I can remember reading about, and I was there for it!

I also really liked the parents and how involved they were in their children’s lives. Their patience and willingness to question themselves, and even challenge themselves when they realised their children needed them to, was absolutely brilliant and flawlessly executed. I love positive parent-child relationships in YA particularly, and this was one of the best I have seen.

One thing that was a bit hit-and-miss for me in an otherwise brilliant reading experience was the writing style. I generally like a more poetic style, similar to the one the author adopted here, and I liked how he managed to still keep the text simple without being weighed down by lyricisms. However, most of the dialogues, especially the ones between Ari and Dante, came across as a bit too clunky and unrealistic, even for two exceptional boys such as them. This is obviously a personal preference, but I found it really distracting and it happened just too often to ignore.

Despite that, I still loved this book and the calm, quiet way it deals with significant, life-changing, scary and, sometimes, outright painful themes of identity, belonging, family, friendship, love and, ultimately finding your place in the world. I’m really looking forward to the sequel now!

Rating: 4.5/5

1 thought on “Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz”

  1. Aww this sounds awesome! Also I cannot believe it is nearly a decade old, that blew my mind! I have not read it, but have always heard such great things, so perhaps I need to- especially now that I see it has held up well over the years. Wonderful review, and I hope you enjoy the sequel!

    Liked by 1 person

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