Book Review #2: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Page Count: 359
Type of Review: Contains Spoilers.

Summer Vacations have started and I've started reading a lot more again. For the past month I had been on a reading ban, because of exams but now I'm free so hallelujah! Anyways, for 2017, I have been trying to read more contemporary and YA fiction books rather than fantasy because that's all I seemed to read before. One of my favorite books of 2017 has been 'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' by  Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I finished it on a cozy Sunday afternoon and it's one of the few books that has actually brought tears to my eyes. I am not a very teary person when it comes to books (figuratively my heart is bleeding but whatever) but the emotions and profoundness of this book genuinely moved me to tears.

'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' is a book about two teenage boys who meet at a swimming pool. Both feel out of place for different reasons, both carry weights in their hearts that no teenage boy should. Yet, when they're together, the world seems a tiny bit better. The book is through Aristotle's point of view. His story is told through simple words that pack enough emotion to make you keel over, and eyes that perceive everything around them with brutal, unflinching honesty. Aristotle feels everything yet he is numb. His story is about a boy who thinks he needs to stay away from others but simultaneously cannot stay away. How another boy, who is his complete opposite, makes him see that sometimes staying away isn't the best solution.

 I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. 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. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn’t have the words. So I just stupidly repeated to myself. “Dante’s my friend.” "
Ari is bitter about all the secrets in his family, about his brother being snatched from him, about his father being there and yet still not there and generally bitter about the world. Dante is the boy who looks at the world not with bitterness in his eyes but wonder- and hope. Dante cries over everything and is a dreamer. Aristotle is afraid of his dreams and hasn't yet learnt that it's okay for boys to cry too. They are complete opposites, yet together, Ari starts to realize that maybe the world isn't such a bad place after all. Their relationship is beautiful blooming from an intricately weaved friendship to one of irreplaceable   love. One of the driving points of this novel are the relationships. Not just Aristotle and Dante's but also their respective relationships with their own parents, with each others parents and between both their sets of parents.

The saddest thing for me, is the stark contrast between the loving and understanding between Ari and Dante's families and friendships, with the rest of the world. Their parents are accepting of the boys, their love and their struggles in growing up. They both slowly gain hope from their parents for the world. But the world strikes them down repeatedly, and they still get up. Their parents play a very important role and are never slighted or brushed off by their children. This is something that is constantly used in YA books to create teenage "angst" and bothers me to no end, and I am wholeheartedly glad that familial relationships are explored with such reverence in this book.

“There are worse things in the world than a boy who likes to kiss other boys.”

The writing style of the author is simply beautiful. Such precision, there is not one word wasted. When you read the book, you can feel the intricacy of the prose, the poetic way every word is joined to the other. Simple, precise words presented with unfaltering candor. The tone of the book progressively matures throughout the book along with the characters. The reader can see the changes and maturity in Ari's character as the book continues, giving us insight that is woefully uncommon in many books.

In my opinion, this book is a true literary masterpiece the likes of which are carefully analysed in literature classrooms. The many underlying themes of love, honesty, friendship, family and diversity are masterfully interweaved with the story. This novel truly deserves every award it has recieved. One of my all-time favourite books, I highly recommend it.

Rating: Definitely 5/5 stars. Absolute perfection.


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