Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published: February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young adult, Bildungsroman
My Rating: 4.5/5
“I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me.”
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming-of-age story about the magnitude of loving parents and deep, lasting friendship.
The story takes place in El Paso, Texas in 1987 through the point of view of our protagonist, Ari. The book follows Ari in his story from a boy to a young adult. He is somewhat of a loner until he meets Dante, and all the sudden he feels like he has someone. Although this story doesn’t technically have a plot, we get to follow these friends through the growth of their relationship as they both discover who they really are both apart and together.
This book is so beautifully written. Ari is constantly pondering the “secrets of the universe” as only a troubled and confused boy could.
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
Ari is constantly keeping his emotions in, everything is trapped inside of him, and it’s reflected with these beautifully constructed wandering thoughts. You fall in love with his speech, the banter he shares with his mother, the openness he comes to develop with Dante.
Dante is Ari’s opposite. He openly cries, kisses his parents on the cheek, and rescues hurt birds. Dante has a way of making Ari want to speak, to open up everything he has kept inside about his pain, his father’s mysterious war, and the secret history of his brother.
What we see when we bring these boys together, is a deep and meaningful friendship from a male’s point of view (finally!!). It was something I never really thought of before, what guys actually felt about their best friends. So seeing that, reading about it, makes me hope that’s how they all feel about their truest guy friends. It’s great to see such care and love from men to other men in friendship.
The only thing keeping me from giving this book that is so unique, so passionate, and eloquently written five stars was the ending. Without giving it away, the last like five pages really turned it for me for the reasons I stated above: I was very relieved to read about true friendship from a male’s perspective. Yeah, yeah, that’s super vague but I don’t want to ruin it. I’ll post my reaction with spoilers below.
Overall, I do recommend this book. It’s a great standalone, and a super quick read. Especially of you are encouraged by short chapters because they make you feel like you’re reading super fast! Let me know if you pick it up and if you enjoyed/agreed/disagreed with this review!
So my undisclosed reaction to the ending of this book is “blah..”
Like I said earlier, I was really enjoying getting to know about a real bromance…but then it was just romance and that kind of killed it for me. I guess I really wanted this book to be about a deep, undying friendship. One that would be inspiring and eye opening.Turning it into a love story in the last five pages was a cop out for me.
Why couldn’t they just be friends? What was so bad about two guys loving each other…as friends?
Another thing that really bothered me, was the way Ari’s parents sat him down to basically be like, “Dude, come on, you are TOTALLY gay!”
The reasons they gave for him supposedly being gay and in love with Dante was first, he jumped in front of a car to save him, and two, he kicked some guy’s butt that put Dante in the hospital.Sorry, but those reactions seem entirely normal for a best friend. I would jump in front of a car for my best friend. And just about any guy would want to beat someone down if they jumped their best friend.
Honestly, I don’t care that they are gay. That’s not what bothers me. It’s the way all the sudden Ari is gay. It’s not something he had been pondering for awhile or mentioned or anything. His parents yell “gay!” and he’s like all the sudden head over heels for Dante. It just didn’t make sense to me. There was no build up, there wasn’t even a hint.
Once again, if you agree or disagree then feel free to discuss in the comments or write me. Just please mark your comments with “spoilers” so we don’t ruin anyone’s reading experience!