- “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- ISBN: 1442408928 / ISBN13: 9781442408920
- Number of Pages: 359
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: 21 February 2012
- Date Read: 16 July 2014
- Format and Source: Hardback, own copy – replacement bought from Fullybooked
- Rating: ★★★★★
Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.
But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.
I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.
I would never get to know about this book if not for a post Eunice had on her Instagram page. Instantly, my attention gravitated towards the awards plastered on the side of the cover, and if you know me, I truly go for books with awards because more than the story itself, I wanted to know what the award giving bodies saw in that particular book that made it win an award.
I read this not really knowing what the story was about, but just from the first chapter, I was hooked and I knew then that I would love it. Maybe it was the 1980s vibe, or the fact that it mentioned the songs “La Bamba” and “American Pie,” or that one exchange of lines they had about being best friends, that got me excited to see how the story would unveil.
Ari and Dante were total opposites, but even so, I was able to feel that they were meant to be each other’s best friends. They have their own positive and negative attributes, and I don’t know… I just loved their characters and I found myself crying at the most mundane of situations. It made me long for a best friend I never had, and though it made me feel hollow inside, it also made me feel like they were my best friends as well.
What made this book work for me was that I could relate to both Ari and Dante, though I could say that I could relate to Ari more. I felt every ounce of hatred and indifference he had towards the world and the everyone, that even if my patience on him was wearing thin, I still understood him (because I am just like him) and wanted to reach out to him more (because I hope someone would reach out to me as well).
Somewhere along the way, there was this sense of mystery that maybe they were gays, and I guess by now it is safe to say that they were. Well, I guess that’s the negative thing I could say about this book – by labeling this as an LGBTQ+ book and bookworms labeling Ari and Dante as OTP (One True Pair), it already broke down the mystery and spoils the very essence of the book. In a way, I feel thankful that I got to read this book even before the hype built up, because by not knowing that this was an LGBTQ+ book, I got to enjoy the story from start to finish.
The setting of the book was perfect for such situations. Though I am still a very young girl the time this book was set, I am a big fan of Freddie Mercury (of the British band Queen) and not too long ago I got to watch the first season of the TV Show “The Carrie Diaries,” which had a (closet) gay character, which allowed me to know a little bit of how it was to be gay back then. It was a little sad, though, that even if this book caught buzz, it didn’t really make it to the “overhyped” status. I am so passionate about this book and I want people to love it as much as I did, and seeing that this didn’t really make it big in the social media kind of big, I was sad and upset that people seemed to miss out on this wonderful book.
I do admit, this wasn’t the kind of a YA book that was peppered with all the feels seem to be present in many YA contemporary books. Other readers said this was boring and I did get what they meant, but you see, the plot wasn’t really the main focus of the story – but the characters themselves. Be it Ari and Dante or their parents or other characters not physically present in the story but still played a key role in their lives. It wasn’t as phenomenal as, let’s say “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green or “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell, but one thing’s for sure… this book was beautiful. Beautiful with a capital B. The gay part of their character may already be given, but don’t let it discourage you from reading this because more than anything, this was a friendship story, that each and every one of us could relate to, regardless of our genders and sexual orientations.
The book ended on a good note, but it left me with a hangover because I wanted more. I heard a sequel is already in the works, and it got me really excited. With all the gender equality and #LoveWins, I hope the sequel would be told during the present time, looking back at how their life was as the seasons and decades change. I don’t know when it will come out, but I am already anticipating it.