Review: Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World (#2) by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.
Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.
The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I read the first book in this series earlier this year after receiving a copy from the publisher, and I was lucky enough that they sent me a copy of the second one too! I really enjoyed the first book and it felt like an absolute staple of the LGBTQIA+ YA genre. I sped through reading it and this one was no different.

I decided to pick this one up as an audiobook and there was something about it that really worked. Both of the audiobooks are read by Lin Manuel-Miranda and there was no better voice to read this story. The first book had beautiful poetic, lyrical writing and this one was no different. However, having this one read out loud gave it entirely new dynamic that just worked so well.

I’m sorry that the world is what it is. 

I wasn’t 100% sure how the story would carry on from after the first book, but I actually really liked how the plot developed. As before, I loved the surrounding characters and especially the families of Ari and Dante. There was sub-plots and stories from the parents of the two boys that had me crying. I got so emotional so many times over such small parts of this book. There was just something about the writing that was incredibly emotive and beautiful.

The plot was unpredictable and I had no idea how the book would end – which I think is partly why I found it so emotive. I was crying by the end (and at many parts in the middle!) and I just couldn’t help but root for these two boys. This book is set in the late 1980s if I remember rightly and discussed a lot of important issues surrounding AIDs. It felt so sad and visceral but also full of hope.

But you’ll learn how to survive – and you’ll have to create a space where you’re safe and learn to trust the right people. And you will find happiness.

If you haven’t read this series by now (I feel like I’m very late to the party!), I would highly recommend the audiobooks. I just absolutely loved the way the writing came across and it showcased the lyricalness beautifully.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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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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