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

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

Personal Thoughts:

One of the most powerful things that struck me about this novel was its main character unique take to the world around him. Right from the start I am intrigue with Aristotle’s voice. He makes me ask myself how am I when I was at his age? How do I see the world back then? Did I questioned things around me like Aristotle did?

“Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”

Sure I did asked most of those questions before but unlike Aristotle I do not really care much about them or the answers. I can’t remember the last time I stop and question little things around me. In this busy world of adulthood things like those seems too silly to think about. That’s why I envy Aristotle and the teens like him who have the luxury of time to question things around them.

I am not a fan of angsty characters in general especially those who are more in the pessimistic side but somehow Aristotle’s angst get to me. Clearly he is confuse, sad, and even angry but his point of view is not just seeing the bad side or the hate, he is lost and seeking for answers. There is a promise in him, that even if he is sad and angry to the world I trust that he eventually find peace or answers. That even he keeps on putting a wall and making mistakes he is at least trying and that for me is a step for change and learning. I also like Aristotle’s sense of humor, it’s not straightforward fun but if you get it you sure will enjoy this side of him.

“And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness.”

Dante’s on the other hand is charming and winsome. He is an optimistic guy who sees good in people and seems always happy. His presense makes this novel more interesting, and fun. I like how his friendship with Aristotle developed – from being stranger, to friend, brother and more. They fight, they forgive, and most importantly learned from each other – mistakes or not. Even the silence between them carry so much feelings that the author doesn’t have to tell the readers how much these two cared for each other. It’s shouting like a neon sign billboard.

“I came to understand my father was a careful man. To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.”

Clearly, Sáenz writing style is more on showing than telling which perfectly fit Aristotle’s voice as a narrator. Because Aristotle is a loner. The whole book is full of his inner monologues. Words that are shouting inside his head but not for other characters to hear. Aristotle is not good in articulating how he feels or bursting his minds. He’d rather be lonely and by himself than talk about his feelings and thoughts to others. He even actively avoid talking his feelings that Dante have to point out this to him. So Sáenz direct and precise wordings is very fitting to Aristotle as narrator.

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get – and never would get.”

Reading this novel is like entering a void where you actively feel and live the characters life. Aristotle’s confusions and thoughts are so real and raw that I can’t help but empathize with him. Every questions running in his mind are like my own questions that needs to be answered either for Aristotle or for myself. I don’t need to be a boy like him or be in his situation to understand and feel his struggles. Same with Dante and the other characters who are more real than a fictional characters. Their lives mirror real life. Liking this novel is just like Aristotle liking Dante’s drawing, I like it because it is “honest and true”.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a refreshing read. I love everything about it, from the characters unique perspective of the world, to the emotional and compelling story it tells. It is an expertly and carefully conceived novel that tells a meaningful explorations of identity and love.

This book is a treasure from the sea of young adult novels out there. Definitely for keep and reread.

Aristotle and Dante’s journey to self-discovery, life-discovery and acceptance is exceptionally special.

1 thought on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz”

  1. Great review! I haven’t read this one or any of the author works but with so many raves about this book, I think I might pick this one up soon.


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