Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz


Let’s start this with a warning: this book does not have a plot. It follows two teen boys, both needing something from the other that they couldn’t get from anyone else. (Yikes, that’s basically the description for every romance novel ever. Fitting, really.) Aristotle (Ari) and Dante don’t know it yet, but they’re going to fall in love by the end of this book. (I would shout SPOILER in my typical all caps fashion, but I mean really, the book is listed under the LGBT and young adult genres. I think you can guess what is going to happen.) The book doesn’t so much follow a plot line as it does a relationship timeline. Everything that happens throughout the book revolves around Ari and Dante’s burgeoning relationship. Dante helps Ari discover poetry, repair his relationship with his family, and come to terms with his brother’s incarceration and his own ethnicity. Ari helps Dante accept himself, he protects Dante from local thugs, and supports Dante when Dante starts to doubt himself.

It’s at this point that I’m going to interject a little personal reading habits information. From the ages of 13-18 I was a huge sucker for romance novels, or at least novels with romance as a major plot line. I loved Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, Sarah Dessen, Philippa Gregory, Sophie Kinsella, etc. Historical fiction was a big portion of my bookcase, and for some reason I also was into mystery books by one specific author, Rita Mae Brown. Mystery isn’t usually something I enjoy, so that one was kind of weird. Anyway, romance stories were a staple. “Chick lit” was abundant. And then, something wonderful happened. I came to terms with the full extent of my nerdiness, and discovered fantasy, sci fi, and classics. Lately I’ve been trolling the fantasy section of my local Chapters store looking for a new epic adventure story. It’s almost like I skipped the phase in my life where I was supposed to be super into epic quests and adventures and instead went right to what my mom likes to read. Don’t get me wrong, I also loved young adult novels, but my mom and I had a lot of reading interests in common back then. Now though, for me to read a novel that revolves around a love story is pretty rare. I actually picked up Aristotle and Dante because it seemed to be making a huge ruckus on the young adult fiction scene and I wanted to see if it was deserving of all the noise it was making.

It was.

I was sincerely touched by the story, the change Ari and Dante enacted in each others lives. They gave each other hope and love, friendship and courage. Even when they fought, when they weren’t talking, they still cared enough to protect each other. For a book that isn’t in my wheel house, I really loved it. I don’t really want to go into everything that happens because I have no desire to ruin the story for you. Just read it, okay? I know I tell you this a lot, but this book is special. Even if you only read it once, and you don’t enjoy it, and it completely turns you off from young adult fiction completely, I still want you to read it. It’s just an important story.

Now get out there and read!


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