by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Book Name: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author Name: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Book Published on Date: 21 February 2012
Genre: Young adult fiction, Bildungsroman
A few memorable quotes from this book:
“One summer night I fell asleep hoping the world would be different when I woke. In the morning, when I opened my eyes, the world was the same.”
“Scars. A sign that you had been hurt. A sign that you had healed. Had I been hurt? Had I healed? Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.”
“This was what was wrong with me. All this time I had been trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, the secrets of my own body, of my own heart. All of the answers had always been so close and yet I had always fought them without even knowing it. From the minute I’d met Dante, I had fallen in love with him. I just didn’t let myself know it, think it, feel it. My father was right. And it was true what my mother said. We all fight our own private wars.”
“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”
The story is about Ari, aka Aristotle Mandoza, who is a fifteen-year-old boy. He feels disconnected from the world and is a loner. He is in constant fights with his doubts and fears – “private wars” in Ari’s mother’s words. On the other hand, we meet Dante, an extremely carefree person who perceives the world differently. He is always engrossed in unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Though Ari and Dante are opposite in character, they had one thing in common, they both came into each other’s life looking for a friend. In the process, they unknowingly affect each other’s lives, and Dante makes Ari come out of his shell. What happens to Dante and Ari’s friendship when Dante moves away to another city because of his father’s new job? And, will Ari be able to figure out the answers to all the mysteries of this universe?
Firstly, I am in love with the beautiful book cover, which looks quite dreamy. It hints at the nostalgic moments or dreams of many of us during our teenage years.
For me, it is a simple story with complicated characters, and I guess that makes this book so intriguing and engaging. It is a beautiful story about relationships, friendships, loyalty, trust, love, and the need for communication to make life simple. It deals with the emotions that a lot of teenagers face and the challenges they come across. Additionally, it highlights the stigma attached to a same-sex relationship in society.
The narration is in a conversational style, in a first-person perspective, where Ari is the narrator. The dialogue exchange between Ari and other characters is quite witty and entertaining.
Ari’s monologues, or journal entries, or his sudden analysis of thoughts, reflect the way many teenagers feel, and that makes it so relatable. The book talks about drugs and has a few instances of strong language. However, they don’t seem overdone. They fit the storyline. It is tough to put the book down as the narrative goes at a pace, which is balanced yet captivating.
From the beginning, we see the conflicts that Ari has been experiencing as a teenager and how he gradually comes to terms with himself and everything around him. The character progressions have been achieved effortlessly throughout the narrative. Each character gets a proper introduction and development.
The author has perfectly woven the multiple plots together with decent twists. All of them get a proper closure at the end, making this book such a delight to read.
I would recommend this book to the young generation who is going through the same struggle as Ari. Also, the adults should give a read to get a better understanding of these young people’s point of view.
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