Published by Simon & Schuster on Feb. 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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The Year: 1987. The place: El Paso. The boys: Dante and Aristotle, two boys with similar names and wildly different personalities.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, is the sort of book that sneaks up on you and doesn’t let go. I wasn’t so sure about Ari when I first met him. He was angry, yet trying hard to act disaffected. We, the reader, are thrown into his life. It’s a life that shows up on the page in short, sputtering sentences. Dante, the boy Ari meets while pretending he can swim one hot summer day, is everything Ari isn’t. Dante is open, friendly, and as he proclaims, crazy about his parents. He is quick with smiles and laughs and tears, and he slowly breaks open Ari’s carefully hardened shell.
When I say that Aristotle and Dante sneaks up you, I mean it. I made it about half way through the book before I really became hooked. But then, how it hooked me. I loved author Sáenz’s exploration of identity—both sexual and heritage—and the way he approached Ari’s discovery of self. The subplot of a brother in prison didn’t work as well for me, personally, but that’s partly because I enjoyed the main story so much. It was quiet, beautiful, and affecting.
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