Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Gay Fiction
Star Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I've heard a lot of things about this beautiful and lovely book, and to say I was nervous was an understatement. Hype scares the living crap out of me, because I never know if it's worth it, and if I get disappointed, well.. I mope around the house for a few days in a slump, until I can actually bear to pick up another book.
Me before reading this book, after hearing all the hype:
Me after this book, my heart in broken little pieces all over the living room floor:
This book undid me entirely. I was in love, completely in love, with this beautiful book. I think I've found a new favorite author. One of the reasons I love contemporary young adult fiction is that if it's done well, it takes me right back to when I was fifteen years old, when the world was too big a place to even think about, and all my teenager problems were the focus of all my energy..
(For the record, you couldn't pay me enough money to go back and repeat puberty.. *shudders*)
Okay, moving on. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe has something for everyone: a love story, two main characters that are opposite sides of the same coin. Ari is quiet, introspective, dark, and angry, for reasons even he himself doesn't completely understand. And then there's his foil, Dante, full of laughter and light and happiness, larger than life, at ease with himself and the world around him, and their relationship is the focus of the novel/
I'm going to start with the prose. My God, this prose. I wish I could write half as good as Saenz. (So jealous. And yes, I totally have an author crush. Sue me! Lol.) I slipped so easily into Ari's skin, mind, and heart that it felt like the comfort of stepping into a hot shower after a long day of work. It made me laugh, cry, and made my heart bleed entirely, cracking it into a million tiny pieces. (Oh no, the book hangover awaiting me.. Yikes!)
But what made me love this book were its characters: Ari and Dante, two young men stumbling into manhood, struggling with identity, their place in the world, and what every human has to deal with, happily, or by kicking and screaming: change. Ari and Dante's family, as well, Dante's parents, Ari's, and his siblings, were just as real and human as the main characters. If only all families could be like theirs. Not the happiest, possibly quite broken, but bound by the unbreakable bond that is love.
This book made me believe in the goodness of humanity again. I needed this book like a starving man needs food, or a man stranded in the desert longs for water. This book is a beautiful literary triumph that slipped into the dark parts of my very soul, and I will never forget it. The bottom line: A gorgeous testament to what it means to be a teenager, and to find real love in all in forms, Aristotle and Dante are two characters that will remain with me long after I return this book to the library--one of my favorite books of all time! Next on deck: The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp!