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Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre: Realistic Fiction, YA Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julia

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.
the book's synopsis

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a book. It's a book about two teenage boys: Ari (Aristotle) and Dante. It's a book about trying to find your place in the world. Figuring out who you are. It's about friendship and what exactly that means. It's the things you hear about so many books, and yet it's not like other books. It's so much more.

Going into this novel, I'll have to admit that I wasn't expecting much of anything special. Don't get me wrong, I didn't think it was going to be a bad book, I just didn't think it would be exceptionally good. (It was good.) Maybe I should have listened to all of the awards displayed on the front cover:
  • ALA Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book
  • ALA Stonewall Award Winner
  • Pura Belpre Award
  • LAMBDA Literary Award
...but those are only the ones on the front cover. Overall, it's one a total of 27 awards. Twenty-seven. And I can see why that is.

There's so much to love about this book. What I love the most is all of the themes that run through it and the way that Sáenz presented these themes. I loved the themes of family, friendship, love, and coming-of-age. I loved how the book followed Ari as he bravely asked the important questions that he's never asked before but so desperately needed to ask.

It’s a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame.

I loved how Dante's and Aristotle's different ways of loving were portrayed in the book. I loved the contrast between Dante's openness and Ari's closed-off approach to love. I love how they each had a story, a reason behind why they loved in the way that they did.

I love the message of the novel. I loved how Sáenz told kids to not be afraid of who they are. To love who you want to love freely, including family, and to not be afraid.

To all the boys who've had to learn to play by different rules.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz's dedication at front of book

There was something beautiful about the idea of Ari breaking down the walls that dominated his life. The walls that his family built and the walls that he built. There's something beautiful about Ari's journey of freedom and self-discovery and being unapologetically himself. Of remembering the rain and finding the answers to questions you never knew needed answering.

Ari discovered the answers to the secrets of the universe. He found what he didn't even know he was missing.

And by reading this book, I, in a way, found what I didn't even know I needed.

Hey, everyone. I just wanted to apologize for missing last week's post. As you know, school has started up again, and things are already quite busy! I had to abandon my summer posting schedule and adopt my school one sooner than I wanted to, but that's the only way I thought I could more easily stick to a schedule. Still, there will probably be weeks when I miss a post, just because life and people aren't perfect. However, since it's the first week of October, I'll also be publishing my September 2017 Reflection this upcoming Friday, so, in a way, it's like I'm making up for last week by publishing two posts this week. (Although I would have published two posts this week anyway... but let's just ignore that, heh heh.) See you all Friday!


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