Review: Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“Another secret of the universe : sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe is quite a masterpiece, and I didn’t think I would ever say that about a contemporary. I am just not a big fan of them, at least till I read this.
It is a masterpiece, but it is far from perfect. I found things I loved, and I found things I hated. But I guess that’s just how it work in life, right?
And this book is full of life.
“Fifteen year olds don’t qualify as people.”

​Sometimes I feel like scanning some of the pages and hanging them on the wall, just so I can look at all my favorite quotes from this book anytime I want to. And this book is full of amazing, heartfelt quotes.
“I thought it might be a great thing to be the air.
I could be something and nothing at the same time. Could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.”

If that is not one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, I don’t know what is. 

Aristotle, or Ari, has made my list of favorite characters ever, from his very first pages. I have never read a character that I could have relate to so much.
Ari was angry, Ari was lost, Ari was angsty, Ari was an introvert and a loner, Ari was brilliant and profound.
“Maybe I was a little superior. But I don’t think I was superior. I just didn’t understand how to talk to them, how to be myself around them. Being around other guys didn’t make me feel smarter. Being around guys made me feel stupid and inadequate. It was like they were all a part of this club, and I wasn’t a member.”

​”Reding my own words embarrassed the hell out me. I had to be the world’s biggest loser, writing about hair, and stuff about my body. No wonder I stopped keeping a journal. I was keeping a record of my own stupidity. Why would I want to do that?”

I really enjoyed Ari’s relationship with his mother. It is very rare to find a good son-mother relationship in a book. Everybody is either portrayed as an orphan, or they hate their family. This book was full of family  love and understanding. Ari and his dad was a little different story, but it bloomed into an amazing relationship, and it warmed my heart.
Dante’s family was beautiful even more so.
Family dynamics portrayal was one of my favorite things about this book.
“My mother and father held hands. I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”

While I adored Ari, I was not a Dante‘s fan. Dante was…too much for me? To put it in Ari’s own words
“What the hell is wrong with that guy?”
That is what I thought most of the time. But the reason I ended up disliking Dante by the end of the book was because I saw him as an extremely selfish person. I loved that Dante always stayed true to himself,
“It wasn’t honest. And anyway, I always got found out. And I felt like a liar and an idiot. I was ashamed of myself for being ashamed of myself. I didn’t like feeling like that.”
but I didn’t like how he treated Ari because of it.

SPOILER AHEAD
When Dante told Ari that he can’t be his friend anymore because this platonic thing is not working out for him I was crushed. I was devastated. I was enraged. Dante was ready to give up being Ari’s friend because Ari didn’t return his feelings? Dante was Ari’s friend. His ONLY friend. But because he wasn’t comfortable anymore he was ready to end the friendship? How selfish is that?
While I was okay with the way the book ended, I still wished that it would end differently. That Ari and Dante would have only stayed friends. I would have wanted to see how that dynamic would work out? Would Dante abandon him? Probably… Would Ari abandon Dante if Dante got a new boyfriend? Maybe…
I just wanted more of the friendship. Them becoming a couple at the end was too easy. Too predictable. Too cliche?
END OF SPOILER

Speaking about friendships, the one between Ari and Dante was a beautiful thing. It has been ages since I have read a book where two boys could be such good friends, without anybody labeling them as ‘gay’.
“I don’t know why I was yelling. The yelling turned into sobs. I fell into Dante’s arms and cried.
He held me and didn’t say a word.”

SPOILER
Yes, they were gay, but when they were smaller, they din’t have any pressures on them, they weren’t pushed into a mold to be somebody that society saw them to be  – so they bloomed into their own, on their own. And it was beautiful.
END SPOILER
While I thought that their friendship was beyond beautiful, it wasn’t very believably portrayed though. They didn’t act as 16 year olds, they acted more like 10 years olds, in my eyes.

“But the worst part was that those words were living inside me. And they were leaking out of me. Words were not things you could control. Not always.”

I really enjoyed the writing. It was unique. It was short, and choppy and different. But it was somehow beautiful. It held emotion.
Sometimes it was weird when boys would talk about ordinary things such as drinking, smoking pot, masturbating and sex. Those things were like little slaps in the face amidst all of the lyrical writing. But then again, the book is about teenage boys, and that’s what boys talk about. It was more believable that way. Raw even.

“They were just trying to help me. But I hated them. And I hated Dante too.
And I hated myself for hating them. So there it was, my own vicious cycle. My own private universe of hate.”

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe is a great read. I believe it would speak differently to different people. And I never thought I would recommend a YA contemporary, but I do. I recommend this one. It’s great. Get your heart a little broken, and then heal it too with this book.

“Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.”img-5066

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2 thoughts on “Review: Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

  1. The quotes you shared are gorgeous – they truly make me want to read it! That’s awesome that it contains a positive mom-son relationship. That is somewhat rare in YA these days, and I don’t really know why – lots of teenage boys in real life get along with their moms. Great review! 🙂 I’ll have to check it out sometime soon.

    Lauren @ Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

    Like

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