Sunday, 10 May 2015

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


Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre(s): Contemporary, LGBTQIA
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date:  February 21, 2012
Date Read:  May 8, 2015
Buy This Book: Amazon | Book Depository
My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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 in 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.
SO MUCH HAPPINESS. MY HEART. I FEEL SO MUCH HAPPINESS .

This book is so raw and emotional and something I really recommend you go into without reading the synopsis or other reviews or anything. Don't roll your eyes at me. I mean, you could do all of that and still enjoy the story but it feels so much more powerful when you read this yourself and feel it all firsthand. Go ahead. Just go and get yourself a copy and begin.

Done? Well, now you know what I'll be blabbering about.

Let's start with the plot: there isn't one. There is no Point A and no Point B and 70% of the story is dialogue but that doesn't mean things don't change by the end of the book. They do change and the slow, emotional journey to that change is what this story is about. In other words, it's a really character-driven tale.

I felt connected on a deeply emotional level to Angel Aristotle Mendoza (that's the protagonist's actual name, whimsical isn't it?). At first, I kept thinking why the heck is this guy so frustrated and contradictory and inconsistent all the time but as you read along, his frustrations become your own, his erratic joy becomes your own, all his feelings become your own. It's a really rare thing for me to like an inconsistent character but I loved Ari. He was written in such a way that I just could not not connect to him. I understood everything about him by the end of this book and I'd be lying if I said that some of his frustrations didn't remind me of my own lonely, angry 15-year-old self.

But Ari isn't the only one. You feel deeply (I'm going to say this word a lot because that's just how I felt) attached to the other characters as well. Dante Quintana is a quirky intellectual with a calmer way of approaching life compared to Ari but that doesn't mean he too doesn't have his own frustrations. He wore his emotions on his sleeves and they were so realistic and heart-wrenching and well-developed.

Then, there are the parents. You know, how I always whine about the lack of caring, loving parents in YA? Yeah, well this book gave me not just 2 but 4 sweet parents and I loved all of them. They were their own people with their own struggles and their own quirks but they all loved their kids so fiercely and wanted to protect and understand and help. They're the kind of parents that you aspire to be if you ever plan on being a parent.

The writing only amplifies what I felt for the characters. Or maybe it's what made the characters. It's not lyrical but it's not The Hunger Games either. It's very simplistic but it packs a punch with each word. Some sentences are only 3 words long but they mean so much to the characters, they can make all the difference to the story. It just goes to show that you don't need to use a bazillion metaphors or complicated vocabulary to tell a beautiful story.

In the end, all I can say is that this book is beautiful. Beautifully written and very beautifully developed.
5 clouds for this new favorite that I want to recommend to my family and friends.

8 comments:

  1. Okay, I'm a bit worried that most of this book is taken up by dialogue. I'm so scared that I won't be able to connect to the two main characters as much as you did. :( But I really love how you mentioned FOUR fantastic parents. I'm already pleased with one fabulous pair, but when both parents of both main characters are fantastic = infinite bonus points!

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    1. Don't worry about that! A lot of the story is Ari's thoughts too but there definitely is quite a bit of dialogue. It's simple dialogue though, nothing like long paragraphs. You'll see if it works for you once you read it :)

      Yasss parents are so important and need more representation in YA!

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  2. I read so many reviews for this book and all of them have been VERY praising, as in absolutely in love with every aspect. The parents is the number one factor why I am so looking forward to reading this, because come on, PARENTS. WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH OF THAT IN YA AND I'M SORRY I DON'T GET WHY THAT IS WHEN I REMEMBER PARENTS BEING VITAL WHEN I WAS STILL SIXTEEN. Sorry for the caps lock, but I just feel strongly about this. Haha.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. I AM WITH YOU ON THIS SO MUCH, FAYE. MY PARENTS ARE BEAUTIFUL HOVERING BUMBLEBEES AND SO ARE ARI'S PARENTS SO THE STORY SHOWS THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THAT AND IT'S SO RELATABLE! I FEEL SAD THINKING ABOUT GOING BACK TO BOOKS WITH ABSENT/EVIL/DEAD PARENTS :(

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  3. I've seen this book all over with glowing reviews, but it hasn't really appealed much to me except the pretty cover. I do, however, might pick this up and will be adding it to my never ending TBR. Awesome review, Ju! :D

    Blessie @ Mischievous Reads

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    1. It's a slow one but it makes you feel so many feels!

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  4. Okay WHOA, no lie your review gave me the chills girl! I was already contemplating picking this up, (it's sitting on my amazon wishlist), but after reading this, I HAVE TO GET IT! Thank you for giving me a review that told us NOTHING about the book, but everything at the same time. Does that make sense? It made sense to me a few mins ago lmao.

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    1. Ahhhh these are reviewer goals that I have finally reached! So glad you want to read this now and I can't wait to see how you feel about!

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