Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


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Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost is poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other–and the power of their friendship–can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I have been recced this book for longer than I can remember, and I have only just now found time to read it. All I can ask myself is, ‘why’? Why did I take so long, dammit?!

Heat/swoon levels

One of the great things about AaDDtSotU (even as an acronym it’s a monster of a title!) was Sáenz really showed what it was like in the head of a teenage boy. Ari doubts EVERYTHING about anything and even when Dante tries to initiate the friendship he’s standoffish and sure it won’t last long.

There’s a lot of work put into the friendship that develops between the boys that when certain events take place they seem like a totally plausible reaction to a situation. And while you know the love and kisses moment is coming, you’re unsure when, because throughout 95% of the book Ari is in complete denial. Not the annoying-roll-eyes-because-its-obvious denial, but the kind where

he’s so completely unaware of his feelings he makes the reader doubt (just for a moment) them too. There’s actual exploration of his feelings towards girls and guys as he tries to figure out who the heck he really is.

So by the time the ending comes around there’s some serious jumping on the couch/fist pumping moments going on.

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Plot pacing and resolution

This book is split up into a few different sections. During the first summer, the pacing is quite slow (not necessarily in a bad way) and the voice was probably a bit on the younger side for my taste. There was a lot of soul searching going on and Ari’s erratic thoughts made it feel like the book jumped around a bit.

As much as I loved the friendship evolving between Ari and Dante, it wasn’t until Dante moved away that Ari started to grow up. He became way more interesting and the self discovery propelled forward with both he and Dante. By the time Dante came back he knew what he wanted, and as Ari figured himself out the mysteries and questions brought up throughout the book unravelled quickly and perfectly.

All wrapped up

The ending gave me happy sighs. It was beautiful and perfect and so totally overdue. I love books that really make you feel something and no matter the issues and trials the MC goes through, it’s amazing to see them get their happy ending.

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I totally recommend this book to anyone looking for something sweet to sink their teeth into. And bonus–there’s going to be a sequel!

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Heather is the world’s most impatient person. Seriously. She’s even getting annoying that typing this is taking so long.

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