Rachel Reviews: Aristotle & Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle & Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Paperback, 359 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
How I Read It: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 4 Stars

For my rating system, please click here

Blurb (as stolen from Goodreads): 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.

I first saw Aristotle & Dante on someone’s Top Ten Tuesday list back in August. About 30 seconds after reading the title (and oohing and aahing over the pretty cover), I had looked it up on GR, chucked it on my to-read shelf and also put it on hold at the library as I was in the midst of having a reserve-a-bajillion-books-all-at-once-from-the-library moment. Two weeks later, it was mine for a month.

I didn’t really know much about it when I started. The blurb didn’t really tell you anything (as a good blurb should) but it did seem like it was a book that you just might be able to trust the GR rating on.

Straight up, I could tell I was going to end up loving some quotes from this book. I mean, this is the opening line – ‘One Summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke.’ While sometimes I can tend to get a bit lost in that kind of lyrical writing style, it blows me away how some authors have such a way with words. I could never, even in my wildest dreams, come out with something like that.

What I liked:

– The 4 secondary characters were Soledad & Sam (Dante’s parents) and Lilly & Jaime (Ari’s parents): It’s not often you read a YA book that includes parents so thoroughly. And it was awesome. Ari’s relationship with Jaime in particular was interesting because Jaime is a bit of a mystery. He’s a war veteran suffering pretty severe PTSD and all Ari wants is for him to talk to him like Lilly does. Made me sad at times, but it was great to see their relationship strengthen throughout the book.

– Dante: I love Dante. He is an absolute sweetie-pie. He just decides Ari’s going to be his friend, and that’s that. That’s pretty much how I became friends with one of my close mates (she decided to befriend me cos I’m a complete social retard and have no idea how to make friends). I also liked his aversion to wearing shoes. I love character quirks and I completely empathised with him – shoes suck.

– The ending: The last 4 pages were just perfection.

This is a coming of age story. I feel that more strongly with Aristotle and Dante than with some other YA books that throw out this tagline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say they aren’t, but it’s just a really accurate description of Ari’s story. My two reasons for saying this would probably be because it’s told over a longer period of time (12 months+) and you really do get to see some strong character development.

Probably my one and only complaint is that the pacing is quite slow. I was interested from the start, but it took me until about the half way mark to get properly absorbed in the story.

I’d never heard of Benjamin Alire Sáenz before this book. One of his others is now on my TBR list & I’ll most definitely be getting to it soon.

This book is seriously so beautiful. It made my eyes leak a little and the ending made me want to Peter Garrett dance around the room. If you’re reading this, I suggest you borrow it, buy it, steal it (but don’t steal it, stealing’s bad) – just obtain it by whatever means necessary and read it on the asap, okay? Okay.

– Rachel

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