Saturday, July 25, 2015

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

For fifteen year old Aristotle Mendoza, the summer is likely to be more of the same: he’s alone, he’s bored, and not really bothered by either fact. He prefers to be alone. Until he meets Dante Quintana.

The two make an unlikely pair from the start. Dante is open, friendly, and a bit of a know it all.  Ari is quiet, thoughtful, and sometimes angry in a way he can’t quite name. Dante offers to teach Ari to swim.  Soon they find themselves spending the summer together, sharing books, sketches, and stories, talking about their lives in a way that is both comfortable and perplexing - for Ari anyway. Really, Ari doesn’t want to make friends.  But life has other plans for Aristotle and Dante.

This is the kind of book that pulls you in right from the start - do not be surprised to find yourself having finished it in one sitting, then picking it up eagerly five minutes later to start reading it all over again. The text is spare and direct, but moving in a way that is quiet and rare.

Saenz creates characters that are deep and real - their struggles with adolescence, sexuality, and identity; the need to question everything about the world around them; and the deep seated desire to discover where they fit in that world. At times funny, uplifting, thought-provoking, and devastating, this is a YA book with definite crossover appeal for adults. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a beautifully told story about friendship, family, and love.

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