Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound
A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
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. – Goodreads
To be honest, I’m not sure why I picked this book up. What I do know is I’m glad I did. This book changed my life. I read it in one sitting in three hours. I could not put it down. This is the story of Aristotle. Aristotle is an angry teen who doesn’t know how to love, is a loner (and somewhat proud of this fact), and has a fairly rough family life. His father came back from Vietnam a changed man, his mother tries to understand, his sisters are much older than him (and often remind him about the age difference between them all), his brother went to jail and his family has decided to forget him and cut him out of their lives. Dante is a know-it-all who gets along with his parents and has a really good home life. This changes is one day the two meet at the local pool.
The two quickly bond and become fast friends. What the two of them don’t know is how much that summer changes the two of them. In most of the book Dante actually leaves Aristotle and the friendship for his father’s job, and still has a lasting effect on Aristotle.
Half way through the novel it comes out that Dante is gay. This is something that deeply changes Aristotle. This book takes place in the late 80s, in Texas. If you were gay in Texas during this period, you tended to hide it so you wouldn’t be attacked. Dante however, true to himself, didn’t hide it, because why? He at one point gets badly beaten because of this. Aristotle, who claims to love no one and nothing, seeks retaliation because he has such strong feelings about Dante, even though he tends to be in denial. Even with this denial, Aristotle works through his life and ends up accepting love and the fact that he can love people back.
By the end of the novel his parents are more accepting of Aristotle and his ‘weird’ ways. His father is talking to him, his mother is no longer hiding the fact that his brother is in jail, and they are discussing things has a family. Everything is happy. And while the relationship between Aristotle and Dante isn’t remotely perfect, it is so real. Sáenz writes such a believeable story with rich and complex descriptions of everything throughout the novel. Sáenz takes his time with the story and the pacing to let the boys grow up and become who they truly are by the end and allow them to discover happiness, a key theme throughout the novel.