Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author/s: Benjamin Alire-Sáenz
Publication: Published February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal Purchase
Plot in a Nutshell:
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.
Thoughts in General:
Let’s first discuss the superficial aspect of a book and that is the cover! I commend whoever designed this book. The typography alone is stunning work, but coupled with the doodles carefully laid out, I couldn’t help but be in awe with how intricate it looks. The symbolism within this doodle art really speaks volumes regarding the various themes within the novel.
I went into this book completely blind. Seriously, even if I have said that I have heard and read a lot of things regarding the book I still had no clue what the book was about. I listened to the advice of every blogger and booktuber that I heard talk about this book, which was to dive into the story without any idea what it is about and I concur.
I allowed myself to be carried by the flow of the story and, at first, I wasn’t attached to Aristotle’s voice. It took a few more chapters for me to be emotionally invested on this book. However, do not be alarmed by this fact because it is the aspect that made the book charming. I slowly grew attached to the characters and it made the story more relevant and relatable. The themes of family, acceptance, and love as well as the challenges that the central characters faced were poignant and heart-warming at the same time.
I initially thought that the novel will feature a dual perspective narrative because of the title, however, I soon discovered that it Aristotle (a.k.a Ari) was the only one telling the story. Truthfully I wasn’t completely enamored by Ari’s perspective in the beginning because I felt like he was too pessimistic and dry. Then things began to change when I slowly discovered that his mentality towards certain things (i.e. having minimal friends) actually felt similar to the way I think (which was strange and scary). He wasn’t the type of person who could easily make friends, especially with boys his own age, and that’s the thing that solidified my connection with him and that made me even more engrossed to continue on with the book.
Dante was an interesting character to read about. I can’t pin-point why, but I am not really the biggest fan of him. There were certain things about him that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Truthfully he appeared to be too wishy-washy for my taste, which irked me at a certain degree. I did commend his selflessness and bravery for defending what he believed in and his banters with his parents were funny.
Speaking of, the parental units of these boys were refreshing. As I mentioned previously, the book was about family and Benjamin Alire-Sáenz delivered a realistic approach to it. Ari’s mother reminded me a lot of my own mom and their relationship was so sweet. Another thing I found I could relate to this book was Ari’s relationship with his dad (I won’t elaborate on this because I don’t want to spoil things for you), which adds a certain sentimental value to the novel that could translate to different readers. Dante’s parents were also incredible and I liked them more than Dante himself.
I am impressed with how Aristotle and Dante was written. It featured this minimalist approach with description and it focused more on the dialogue between the characters. I did got confused at certain parts because there weren’t many indicators as to who was speaking. Although it did felt refreshing to read a book that wasn’t cluttered with description (which I might try to emulate in my own fiction writing).
I can now honestly say that I get why it won so many awards and why it was hyped up non-stop in the literary world.