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

Quick Statistics

  • “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”  by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Contemporary Young Adult
  • Listened to the audiobook.
  • 5/5 stars

Official Synopsis

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.

My Thoughts/Summary

Sometimes a book sweeps you away when you never expected it to. You knew it was supposed to be good, and that Lin-Manuel Miranda reads the audiobook, but you don’t expect it to capture your heart. But then it does. This is one of those books.

I do think that part of the magic of this was hearing Lin read it. I am a shameless Hamilton fan, but his performance felt so genuine. I’m someone who is bilingual, and while I’m not latinx I have grown up surrounded by that community, hearing people codeswitch between Spanish and English regularly. The book handles this in a perfect way, and in a way that is so real, and genuine that I immediately fell a little more in love with it.

Throughout this book we follow Dante and Ari’s friendship through ups and downs, as Ari is determined to know more about the parts of his family that his parents hide, and Dante wants to keep Ari in his life. The book won the Stonewall award, so as you can probably guess, there is GLBTQIA+ content here, and it’s done really beautifully. I don’t read much GLBTQIA+ literature, way less than I should read, but this doesn’t feel like a story centered on a character coming out, or stereotypical members of that community. The characters in this story feel so real, they feel like someone you knew in high school, or your next door neighbor from when you were a kid.

Saenz has a marvelous way of writing male characters that I can see myself in. I don’t read a lot of books with male main characters as they’re typically targeted to young boys who seem to just want all action and silly humor, but Saenz transcends YA here in a way that I think is really notable. I will be slowly but surely, making my way through Saenz’s collection of works as he seems to be quite prolific.

Follow-Up Links

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