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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Book Review)

Author:  Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary. LGBTQ

Release Date: April 1st 2014 (first published 2012)

Page Count: 359

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781442408937

Author Website | Purchase on Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads

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Somewhere toward the end of the shift we all started singing U2 songs. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Yeah, that was a good song. My theme song. But really I thought it was everybody’s theme song.

There has been a lot of recent hype in the book reviewing community surrounding Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe even though it came out in 2012. This book has won quite a few awards and is extremely well received. After seeing an endless amount of praise from some of my favourite book reviewers and booktubers, I decided that I wanted to give this book a shot and I’m really glad that I did.

Goodreads synopsis: Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself. But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a beautifully written coming of age story shared by two teenaged boys who are just trying to discover who they are and who they want to be as they are growing up. This story is very simple, clean, pure and fast paced. There wasn’t even one moment that felt like a filler.

As previously experienced, an over-hyped book has been a bit of a dangerous territory for me. I end up feeling really excited to get into a novel based on all of the raving reviews only to end up feeling a little underwhelmed. That was not the case with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. This novel deserves all of the attention and praise that it is receiving.

I read through this book really quickly, and although that means that I was thoroughly enjoying the story, I did not want it to end. What I like about well written coming of age stories is that they don’t need a lot of action or dramatic events, it’s just a realistic depiction of life.

I loved both Aristotle and Dante as characters and how they were both so different, yet the same. Aristotle, our narrator, is very quiet and introverted. He keeps his thoughts to himself and usually hides what he’s thinking from the people he interacts with. He tends to contemplate life more in his mind rather than out loud. Dante on the other hand, is big on talking and interacting out loud. He doesn’t keep anything hidden. Although they have different personalities, both boys know that they are different somehow and that they don’t really fit in with society. They compliment one another and thus a great friendship is born.

The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.

When I first heard about this novel and up until I started reading it, I didn’t realize it had LGBTQ themes. I’m really glad that it did as it’s hard to find stories like this one that are more deep and real rather than campy and playful. I feel like a lot of people in the LGBTQ community could probably relate more to this story because of its realistic nature.

I could definitely see this story as a movie, but definitely in the independent movie community. Some of my favourite films are indie movies and I can see a story like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe being really well received as an indie film.

Overall, this is the perfect book for you if you are looking for something that is beautifully and lyrically written, realistic and simple. This story is filled with beautiful quotes and I will leave you with one more to end this review.

And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without darkness. Wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?



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