Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Seanz Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe  (8601404293382): Sáenz, Benjamin Alire: Books

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 359

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes

I finally bought a copy of this book a few days ago and decided to see what all the hype was about. It was over 350 pages long and I’m pleased to report I finished it in just two days. It managed to grab my attention that much, and now I’m all prepped to read the sequel! Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is about two very different Latino boys falling in love and how their relationship helps sustain them through tough times. Aristotle has a brother in prison who his parents never talk about, and he’s pissed off a lot of the time.

He doesn’t even know what his brother did to be incarcerated and this elephant in the room leaves an emotional void inside him. When he meets Dante at the swimming pool, Dante seems to be the polar opposite of him- friendly, emotional, and chatty, Dante wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t keep his emotions locked inside like Ari. They become close friends and as Dante makes his feelings for Ari increasingly clear, Ari is still reluctant to come to terms with his own sexuality.

It took me a while to get into the writing style of this book. It’s very simple and straightforward- similar to a middle-grade book in terms of the naivete and youthfulness of Ari’s voice. It reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in that the narrator seems really young but there’s a hidden depth to the prose. The lack of frills in the writing somehow makes the emotions feel particularly raw. I liked both Aristotle and Dante’s characters and how they had their share of weaknesses and blind spots just like any real human being.

I also enjoyed seeing their relationship develop, even though it took way longer than I thought it would. I found the whole thing with Aristotle actually having to be told he was in love with Dante by his parents frustrating, it seemed like something he should have been able to figure out on his own and his parents sitting him down and being like ‘you need each other’ was a little weird.

I also didn’t get all the laughing- it was a small and weird detail but it felt like the characters laughed all the time at the drop of a hat at things that’s weren’t particularly funny. It felt like the author couldn’t come up with much dialogue that was actually humorous yet there were scenes where the characters couldn’t stop cracking up and I couldn’t figure out why.

Overall, though, I really liked this book and it was way more of a page-turner than I expected it to be. I don’t like romance as a genre but this wasn’t a typical romance. It was sometimes heartbreaking without being depressing overall, and the characters are friends for most of the book (in the way that is just as meaningful as a romantic relationship.) After reading it I added almost all of this author’s books to my to-read list.


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