Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (#1) by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book has been on my TBR for so long but I’ve just never bought myself a copy. However, 9 years after the initial release, it’s getting a sequel and re-release in the UK! Because of this, Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of the UK paperback – thank you to them. This is one I’ve been wanting to read for so long, and I really feel is a staple in LGBTQIA+ YA. I really didn’t know much about the story or what to expect, but I have heard amazing things about this book from others.

This book follows Ari and Dante, who are 16 year old boys both going through their own journeys of growth and discovery. Their lives become intertwined and they grow closer, especially when they go through something traumatic together that will forever leave Dante indebted to Ari. Although the characters in this book are now much younger than me, I still really enjoyed reading about their stories of self discovery. They both felt authentic and honest, and I really liked the focus on Ari.

Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. 

The writing was the part that surprised me most, as this book is very poetic and lyrical, with a lot hanging on bold statements and beautiful quotes rather than heavy descriptions. The chapters are short and heavy with dialogue, which meant I read this super quickly in a couple of sittings. Although I really enjoyed the pacing, I did feel like this style left a little to be desired when it came to the character development. With little focus on the boys themselves or their feelings, I feel like I never quite got to know them as much as I wanted to.

However, I did still feel connected to them and their families. Both of their parents were brilliant and I loved how real and raw they were. The discussions of adulthood and growing up felt authentic and relationships with the adults in this book were well written. I also liked Ari a lot as a main character. He is evidently battling a lot and he is a complicated but raw character who felt like an authentic teen. Even now, I could relate to some of his thoughts and feelings. I also thought the discussions of culture/heritage/being Mexican were really well done, especially with the viewpoints differing between the boys.

The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.

Overall, I did really like this book. I liked the characters, loved the writing and it was absolutely chock full of beautiful quotes. I do feel like there was something missing, but I’m still looking forward to the sequel!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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