books, Reviews

The Reviewing Reel: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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

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This book has been repeatedly recommended to me. Over and over and over again. I’ve also been reluctant to read it – mostly because I’ve read a few negative reviews that say it doesn’t live up to the hype that surrounds it.

Honestly, I only read it because my college decided to buy it in for another student over the summer, and I managed to snag it before they did (haha). It’s got a very nice cover, I’ll give it that. Unlike a lot of young adult novels, it’s not repulsive. I also took it, initially unread, to work with me today (Saturday 23rd September), and came home 9 hours later with it completely finished.

Aristotle and Dante (as I will shorten it down to, for ease of typing) is about two boys living in 1980s Texas – surprisingly enough, named Aristotle and Dante. Interesting names. Nice names, even. These two boys make friends with each other, go on a series of adventures over the summer, then…

Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

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This book has a very interesting, very descriptive, incredibly beautiful writing style. It’s written from the first person perspective of Aristotle (or Ari, as he prefers to be known as), and we follow the relationships of him with his parents and siblings, as well as the relationship of him with Dante.

Unlike lots of YA, this book doesn’t suffer from ‘where the fuck are your parents’ itus, or the ‘parents are conveniently dead/not there/arseholes’ cliche. The parents of Dante and Ari, respectively play massive parts in the narrative in their own right. It definitely makes this novel stand out.

I really enjoyed the casual, non-abrasive use of LGBT+ people in this novel, too. Nobody had a massive coming out, everyone was accepted, it was lovely to read a positive depiction of parental acceptance. Also, both Ari and Dante are Mexican-American, and are proud of their Mexican roots – I haven’t read any other books, YA or otherwise, with Mexican-American main characters. If you know of any more, let me know, I’d really like to learn more.

All in all, I gave Aristotle and Dante a strong 5 star rating. If you want to read beautiful writing, good LGBT+ and race representation, then pick this up. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Hate U Give or Our Own Private Universe, or if you just enjoy well-written, well-rounded young adult novels with great protagonists.

Ellie x

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