Book Review: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” – 5/5⭐️

Pages: 384 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thoughts:

*****SPOILER WARNING (OF SORTS)*****

This is a beautiful book. Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a tender ride through the mind of Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza as he matures into a young man, and builds a lifelong relationship with his best friend, Dante Quintana. The two boys are like polar opposites, but bring out the best in each other. Ari is introspective by nature, and self doubting, while Dante is extroverted and very confident. Ari sometimes mentions how Dante seems to fit right in, while he himself struggles socially to the point of having no friends. 

Both boys carry a deep weight within their hearts, and it’s their friendship that gives them the courage to approach life, and their parents. While one fears rejection by bringing up his imprisoned brother, the other fears disappointing his parents by coming out to them. Being Mexican-American myself, I wholeheartedly sympathized with the two boys because family is such an important thing in Latinx culture. It’s pretty much sacred, and the fear of disappointment is very real. Yet, what struck me the most was the depth of love between the two families, and the relationship the parents had with their children. Because, as we know, not all traditional parents are so open minded. So, seeing the level of tenderness and acceptance from the Mendoza’s and Quintana’s made me want to cry. In fact, I did, a few times. 

What I enjoyed too was the use of the weather in this book. Hot summer days, clear starlit nights, and rainstorms. So many rainstorms. Saenz seemed to connect the weather with Ari in that way. In the beginning, it is summer and he is dry and parched, in need of a friend to exchange words with and validate his existence. Then come the storms of confusing emotions, of family secrets, of school, teenage angst, and injuries. It’s one after another for poor Ari, until, finally, the sky clears and he has come into himself.

In all, this is a fun and quick read, filled with the budding emotions of two teenage boys and the trials they face in a society that is not entirely understanding. But thankfully, they have family to rely on, as well as each other. Oh, and a dog named Legs. Let’s not forget Legs. 

If you choose to give this a read, let me know what you think! I haven’t picked up the second book just yet, so I’d love to hear thoughts from those who have read it.

Book Thoughts: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (3.5/5)

Hello! I am currently stuck at home recovering from COVID, and so I finally have the time to catch up with a few book reviews I’d planned to upload. (Anyone else feel like 2022 is just an extension of 2021? Like where did the first half of the year go?) The first book I wanted to write on, which I’d started in January, I didn’t actually finish, though I really did try. Swear. That said, this book gave me mixed feelings because I really enjoyed the world building, but could not bring myself to connect with the main (I think) female lead. I’m a very particular reader in that I prefer strong female leads, and don’t often have patience for meandering plots. That said, I have always loved science fiction, and so really wanted to give this one a chance. Read on for more.

****SPOILER WARNING!****

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars. Wonderful world building, but shallow character development. 

In Chambers’ debut book, we join Rosemary Harper as she boards the Wayfarer and meets the crew whose job it is to tunnel wormholes through space. They’re immediately welcoming (except for one, but he’s a prick), and she slowly begins to find her place as the newest member. We see different aspects of each character’s lives as the point of view bounces between the crew. It’s at about the 20% mark when introductions are done. We have a little bit of backstory on each character, and the story begins to really move. However, I noticed that as the story progressed, I still didn’t have a good hold on who, exactly, Rosemary Harper was or even who she wanted to be. 

I feel like we get snippets of her personality, but her character is quickly overshadowed by the rest of the crew. What stuck out were the moments of dramatic tension that could have been used for her character growth. For example, the instance when the Wayfarer is boarded by pirates, and it’s Rosemary’s bit of tucked away knowledge (and language skills) that saves the crew’s bacon. I’m rooting for her here, and looking forward to seeing her in action. Yet, we only get a little bit of this before we’re pulled out of the moment by another POV change, and next thing we know we’re with Captain Ashby as he wakes up in med bay. Pirates gone and the crew pretty much intact. We learn about Rosemary’s actions after the fact, instead of staying with her in that moment. 

In fact, the story begins with Rosemary changing her identity and running away from something. But, it wasn’t until the halfway point of the book that we suddenly learned what, or who, it was. (Her father.) Honestly, at this point, it was a bit anticlimactic as I was frustrated with and unsure of her character and didn’t care anymore. So, when she begins to worry about being kicked off the ship and starts crying in front of Jenks, the comp tech, I’m right there with him and don’t get why she’s breaking down. After all, here’s a girl who faked her identity, boarded a ship of strangers, and took a romp through outer space. That takes guts. 

Perhaps, Rosemary does a bit more growing in the second half of the book. But at this time, I don’t really have the urge to pick it up and continue. Don’t get me wrong, A LOT happens in just the first half, but not enough that mattered to me. This is not to say that this is a bad book, but could be a trait in myself as a reader. This book requires a lot of patience. The meandering/episodic nature of the chapters allows for digestion of a universe that is quite massive and wonderfully exotic. I fell in love with it honestly, and with the colorful, strange crew. I loved Sissix the most, and her kindness towards crewmates and strangers alike. Second came Ohan, their Navigator, and their quiet nature. And, lastly, I really wanted to try eating whatever Dr. Chef was cooking. Even the bugs. 

In all, I do not want to dissuade anyone from giving this book a chance. After all, it’s the first of a whole series. But if you’re like me and you like a bit more immediate action and character development, and you want to know exactly who you’re following into space, you’ll need some patience on this one. 

If you’ve given it a read or are in the process, please share your thoughts!