Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

220px-Aristotle_and_Dante_Discover_the_Secrets_of_the_Universe_coverAristotle and Dante have very little in common. Aristotle is angsty, a fighter, and unsure of who he is. Dante is poetic, emotional, and 100% himself. But when they meet, they form a unique bond that will alter their lives forever.

What I Thought of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

For a reasonably long story with almost no plot, this book is nearly impossible to put down. Although it certainly has its flaws, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe contains beautiful characters, simple yet meaningful life lessons, and a timeless depiction of the awkwardness of growing up.

At first, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to relate to Ari or Dante at all as a result of their characterization. Since they are both Mexican-American boys in the late 80’s, I simply assumed that their conflicts would be difficult for me to understand. However, the author managed to make their teenage experiences relatable to everybody. From Dante’s conflicted relationship with his ethnicity to Ari’s confusion about where he belonged in the world, their views of growing up were completely authentic and understandable. Through Ari’s straightforward and honest voice, little wisdoms were shared that masterfully summed up his situations and are entirely unforgettable.

There is no doubt in my mind that the characters and their relationships are the absolute best part of this book. Ari and Dante were so well described that by the time I was finished reading, I felt as if I had known them for years. In addition, their bond was more realistic than most book friendships I’ve ever read. As nice as it is to pretend like friendships come without issues, that just isn’t the truth. These two disagreed and passive aggressively fought over little things that wouldn’t bother most people, and that’s what made them so perfect together. My second favorite relationship in this book is that of Aristotle and his father. It was interesting to see Ari slowly come to understand why his father was the way he was and to see their relationship grow stronger as they opened up to each other more and more. Although both of them were imperfect people, it was plain to see that they shared similar characteristics that made their father-son connection so truthful.

Though I have provided nothing but praise for this book so far, there were a few things that were off-putting. For starters, the dialogue wasn’t exactly great. I would often have to reread conversations multiple times to figure out who was saying what, and even then it felt choppy and unreal. Some of what they said also seemed forced. Occasionally, it felt like this book was trying a little too hard to be insightful. Finally, the plot was a bit too slow for my liking. On the one hand, I am aware that this was intentional. Everything in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe occurred so gradually, it felt as if it was real life. However, some parts were so eventless that it was boring to read.

Overall, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe offers wonderful characters, intriguing perspectives on teenage life and growing up, and beautiful sentiments that everyone can relate to. Although the dialogue wasn’t perfect and the storyline would put action lovers to sleep, this book still deserves a respectable 4 star rating.

The most memorable part of this book is the ending. I got so wrapped up in reading, I was shocked yet satisfied by the simplistic, happy conclusion.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars