Discovering the Secrets of Aristotle and Dante

Sophie Wojciechowski, Senior Editor

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a book written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Sáenz has written a few other books including The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. He has written children books, young adult books, and poetry. Aristotle and Dante was published on February 21, 2012. It has won the Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2013, the Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Young Adults in 2015, and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult in 2013. These awards along with many others were won by this book. On Goodreads, it has a 4.35 out of 5 stars and a grand majority of people seem to like the book. Everyone that I have talked to also adores the book just about as much as I do. However, there are some people that think that the book was trying too hard to give off the feel that everyone else saw.

Aristotle and Dante is about a boy, Aristotle, growing up and discovering himself. Aristotle is a 15-year-old Mexican-American boy who lives in El Paso, Texas in the 1980s. He doesn’t have many friends at all, but he enjoys being alone at times. One summer day, he meets a boy, Dante, who is similar to him. He also doesn’t have many friends, and they instantly click. For the remainder of the summer, they become closer and spend many days laughing, until an accident leaves them both injured. Throughout this first half of the book, Aristotle is slowly coming out of his shell, even though he still doesn’t talk about his feelings or the battles raging inside of him. The rest of the book develops themes of depression, friendship, and the importance of family connections and honesty.

This book is one of my all-time favorite books, arguably my favorite book. Aristotle himself is such a real character, and Sánez developed him exactly as you would imagine. Most books make their characters much deeper than people actually are, and I really enjoy how real all the characters in this book were. Ari is an angry teenager, but also sad and confused within himself. His parents keep secrets from him and because of this, he never knows how to talk to people. He keeps everything inside and cannot see who he is all of the time either. I relate to Ari in that I find it difficult to talk about my feelings and I never know what to say or how to even say it. Dante is both different and similar to Ari. They are both two very real, very different characters who are going through struggles that almost everyone goes through. Dante, an only child, loves his parents and is “crazy about them.” He seems to be able to talk to his parents about pretty much everything. However, as the book goes on, Dante shows that there are some things that are too difficult for him to talk to with his parents.

The book is divided up into six sections with chapters within each section. These sections kind of square off certain parts of the book. My favorite section is “Remember the Rain.” This part of the book wasn’t any different than the others, but the tone of it was nostalgic, and I am a sucker for nostalgia. This book centers around the second summer that Ari and Dante know each other. As the summer goes on, they realize that not all summers can be like the first one. However, they are still the greatest of friends and they are living their lives to the fullest, even if sometimes they get stuck.

Some people saw the book to be unrealistic and unnatural in some parts. While I, and most of the readers, found the book to be real and the characters to be real, some people found the characters to be boring and the overall writing of the book to be bad. In addition, a lot of people found the book to not have a plot at all. To them I say: There are different kinds of books and different writing styles and different types of characters. Sánez’s writing style in this book is simple and a little short, but that is because it is how the character, Ari, thinks. As Ari is the narrator, the writing style has to be as such. And, there totally was a plot. Just not the type people usually write. The plot was one of discovery within a character. Aristotle and Dante is one big internal conflict within Ari while having a lot of small external conflicts scattered throughout the pages. The book is character driven, yes, but that does not mean that there is no plot.

I highly recommend someone read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe because it is a heart-warming coming of age story about two boys who have a fantastic friendship and grow with each other and within themselves. While there are some things that may turn readers off, whether it be the writing style of the lack of a “real plot,” this book is truly amazing. It is beautifully written and the story flows together that it just takes your breath away. In addition, there is a sequel and a movie coming out this year! So, read Aristotle and Dante before you miss out.

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