Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

The cover of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz shows Ari's truck parked in one of his favorite spots to go in the book.

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The cover of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz shows Ari’s truck parked in one of his favorite spots to go in the book.

Kara Yim

I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”

— Benjamin Alire Sáenz

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a romantic standalone novel that portrays self development and the impact other people have on you. Narrated by Aristotle Mendoza, also known as Ari, the story follows a Mexican-American 15-year-old boy who lives in El Paso, Texas. At first, he is hopeless and his life is plainly black and white. He is simply existing because he has to. One day, he meets a boy of the same age – Dante Quintana – and everything changes. They first bond over swimming and naturally become best friends. They share stories and eventually start to explore what they call “the secrets of the universe” together.

 

This novel’s diversity is a notable aspect of this story. The two Mexican-American teenage boys talk about their family life and culture. It allows the reader to observe the values of family in their culture and how their culture has a significant impact on the way they live and think. Dante even constantly repeats the notion that he is not a “real Mexican” since he feels personally detached and different from his family. Additionally, there are some mentions of people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and some are even main characters. This representation is important in real life so minorities can find people they relate to and know they are not alone.

 

The way this book is formatted made it easy to read and understand. The first-person narration allows the reader to experience firsthand what Ari is feeling. It is separated into six parts, each having small epigraphs, which can give a taste of what the entire part will be about. There are also letters sent between the two boys, keeping the audience hooked in what the characters will say and allowing us to be engaged in both of their lives. Ari’s thinking process is full of questioning why things are the way they are and how his emotions take control of his doings. It can be extremely interesting to see how a young teenager can have such a different perspective of events or life in general than yourself.

 

I first read this book because I heard several people talking about it. After a while, I had to see why so many people loved it and I am glad I did. This has easily become one of my favorite books I have read.  The brilliant and beautiful writing truly demonstrates the relationships present, rather than blatantly telling. It allowed me personally to easily understand what is happening. The characters are very human, by which I mean they can make mistakes and sometimes do the wrong things. But that is what makes it so easily relatable. They sometimes lose control and lash out. But they also smile, laugh, and truly enjoy themselves. It is an emotional journey of self discovery that you just cannot miss out on.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been a huge success, so much so that there is a sequel in the making! Sáenz has been communicating with readers on Twitter about updates he can release. Unfortunately, there has not been much new news, which Sáenz apologizes for and explains he cannot release information without the permission of the publisher. However, we know that it will take place in Ari’s point of view again where the first book left off. His Twitter handle is @BorderPoet, where you can also turn on post notifications to immediately get notified when he posts about the sequel.

 

I hope this novel is as great and pleasing for you as it is for me. Enjoy!