Rating: 5/5 Stars
*****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.