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

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 they meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the two loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special kind of friendship–the kind of friendship that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through their friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves–and about the kind of people they want to be.

Rating: 5*

Recommended For: 14+

Themes: Identity and acceptance, friendship, family, coming of age

LGBTQIA+ Content: Questioning MC. Gay supporting character. Author is gay.

I adored this book. I adored Ari. I adored Dante. This book is fantastic.

Ari and Dante come from very different perspectives than me. They’re both male, Mexican, and teenagers in the 1980s. Yet at no point did I feel like I couldn’t understand them. Sáenz writes them so beautifully and truthfully that I could empathise with both of them so well.

Ari is an angry young man. Dante is wholly himself at all times. The two probably shouldn’t be friends and yet they are. They have one of those oddball relationships from the very start and this carries all the way through as they grow.

As the novel progresses you find out more and more about not only Are and Dante but their parents as well. I found it particularly interesting to see the development of Ari’s relationship with his father. It was poignant and gave me a lot to reflect on, both as a child and as a parent.

This is an excellent read for anyone, teen or adult, especially for those coming to terms with their sexuality or personal identity.

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