Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Year Published: 2012
Everyone needs to read this book immediately. It’s so important. Friends, family, teachers, professors. Everyone please read this book.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a coming of age young adult novel that explores the relationship between young Mexican-American teenagers Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza and Dante Quintana. The story begins with their meeting at the pool during the summer of 1987 where Dante offers Ari swimming lessons. From there, the story blossoms into a tale about two young boys trying to figure out who they are and who they are growing up to be. While Dante is more open with who he is, our narrator Ari is less so. However, his friendship with Dante, which may bloom into something more, brings out who he is truly becoming: a man that is brave, loyal, and loving. This novel is truly one for the ages and will definitely attract readers who enjoyed books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and the classic The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
I did not expect this novel to hit me as hard as it did. Seeing these two boys grow up in 1987 was a truly magnificent experience because as a reader living in the 21st century, it was refreshing to see how a friendship can become so strong without the major technologies of today. Not only that, but their exploration of love and everything that comes with growing up (alcohol, drugs, and the opposite/same sex) was very tastefully done. It did not seem extreme, as many young adult authors tend to overdue in their attempt at reaching a younger audience. Not only that, but the theme of family and the importance of a family dynamic was truly beautiful. Seeing Ari and Dante’s parents come together to support their sons while also revealing something about themselves really shows that how one interacts with their family is just as important in growing up as how one interacts with their friends and peers. Without the theme of family, this book definitely would have fallen flat. Luckily, it didn’t, and I can personally say that the author managed to put everything in perfect balance, even if the characters themselves weren’t.
This is a book that needs to be read by every high school student and teacher. In fact, it needs to be read by every parent and professor as well. We can all learn something from this little book about two boys trying to discover the secrets of the universe; secrets that aren’t as secret as they may think. Growing up is in itself a secret, and Ari and Dante discover this secret as they grow up during the course of the book. The reader grows up with them, and with that, the universe opens up not only to the characters, but to us as well. The conclusion was just right, and if you are with Ari and Dante from the beginning, you’ll know that it could not have ended any other way. The story: timeless. The lesson: irreplaceable. You need only to read this young adult masterpiece to know just how much of a triumph it truly is.