Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share 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 themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Let me tell you something and you decide if I liked this book or not. I’m not big on flying. It worries me – oh let’s just say - A LOT. Over Christmas I fly to Chicago with my husband. It was a short flight, but one that still scared me. Before we took off for the flight home I downloaded this book on to our new tablet. Once in the air I opened it up and started reading. I read and read and read hardly thinking about the flight! I couldn’t believe when it was time to land and I had to put it away!
So that should show you how much I enjoyed this book. I didn’t finish it on the flight – just a few days later.
Ok why did I like it? I think it was the depth of the story. This is about Dante and Aristotle of course, but there is so much more to it. This was about family, and human flaws, and supporting those we love, and most importantly about acceptance. Aristotle (Ari) was more than just his friendship with Dante. He was a character with depth. There was his relationship with his father who is still struggling with Vietnam. And there’s the whole history of his older brother now in prison and how that affects all parts of Ari. On top of that is the quiet relationship he has with his mother. All of these factors spin and weave into Ari’s life and story making it much richer and fuller than just his relationship with Dante. And that made me like all the characters more – because they were three dimensional.
I also loved how the story unfolded. It wasn’t a knock-your-socks off car chases and bombs plot. But in its own way it knocked my socks off with its honesty and straight forwardness. Things would just be said in a matter-of-fact way that sometimes they took my breath away. Not in a bad way, but in a “wow I didn’t see that coming but way cool” way. Dante does this several times. It also did have bombs that exploded – some like Ari’s brother being in prison happened before the book started and we’re seeing the effects of it. Others happen throughout the book and we watch each character struggle with and react to them in their own way.
I also loved Dante and Ari. Much of the story hinges on me liking them! I don’t think I could’ve liked the story if I didn't like and care about both of them. Of course there were times I wanted to shake both of them like when Ari just won’t allow himself to be open and willing and cuts himself off from people. That was frustrating, but it made him human. And some of the choice Dante makes made me mad, but I got that he was a teenager and that’s normal for them to make wrong choices. I think if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have bought in to him at all!
Lastly – I loved that the grown-ups in this book. They were wonderful. And I was very pleased to read a YA book where their parents play a strong positive role in the lives of their children. There have been discussions about the fact that YA has a lot of absent parents. That wasn’t the case here. Instead both boys had read parents. Parents that were there for them, that supported them, that held them accountable AND that had their own flaws. It was a great part of the book.
Over-all: Love it. Read it!