Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 21st 2012
Source: My Own, Paperback
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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 the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
As per my usual, I went in blind. I didn’t know what to expect really I guess just your everyday contemporary fiction. Boy, was I wrong. So very very wrong. Aristotle and Dante Discover the secrets of the Universe was so much more than I expected. The depths reached were insane.
I really heard a lot of good things about this book, like how it changed people’s life. The cover is littered with awards. Typically I’m very cautious about the hype I hear were books and movies are concerned. Most things do not live up to the hype for me. Trust me when I say this one deserves the hype, it deserves every single damn award it received.
Told completely from Ari’s perspective, Ari and Dante are just two Mexican-American kids living in El Paso Tx in the 1980’s. Which was surprise number one from me, that’s my birthplace! Okay so maybe I’m the only person who gets giddy about things like that. So anyways they meet on summer when Dante offers to teach Aristotle how to swim. They become inseparable which is amazing because these two are so opposite but it works. Aristotle is dealing with a lot of things at home. His father is a Vietnam vet who came home a shell of the man he once was. Ari’s older brother is in jail but he might as well be dead for all he knows of him. His mother is just trying to keep the family together and his older sisters well they have families of their own and aren’t actually involved in his life. As for Dante his family life is actually pretty swell he loves his parents and they love him. He is free spirited and bubbly a sharp contrast to Aristole. Dante is also very gay, and very in love with Ari.
The story takes place over a year and some months. We get to watch their friendship blossom as well as wither. No friendship is perfect but these two were so incredibly honest with each other (for the most part) they learned to navigate through life dealing with the many odds that are stacked against them. As a Mexican American who often feels like i’m not Mexican enough or not American enough these two really struck a cord with me. I found that I could really relate to them in more ways than I thought.
From time to time I found myself a little frustrated with Ari, but then he would do something so incredible that I just let it go. I gasped a couple of times, because I realize now I had no idea where this was going and I was surprised by the plot twists.
This really is a beautiful coming of age story rich with love and acceptance. Saenz’s writing is extremely beautiful. I look forward to devouring everything else he puts to paper.