Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

First person perspective quickly became a non-issue once I got a few chapters into this book.  This is probably the best first person story I've read.


All the feels.  So, so many feels.  This story was so profound.  I felt like I was Aristotle, or Ari to his friends.  He was a lonely, lonely boy, and though I had good friends--great friends growing up, I remember feeling such an aching loneliness at times.  I also remember being caught in my own private wars and living inside my head, keeping so many of my thoughts to myself.


Ari was a beautiful boy who was confused not only about himself, but about the entirety of his family.  His father returned from the Vietnam war a shell of his former self--not that Ari would know that because he was born after his father returned from the war.  It was as if whatever haunted his father was inherited by Ari.  He grew up being so bothered by the fact that he didn't know his father because he wouldn't let anyone in.  He grew up as practically an only child because his siblings were so much older than him.  He grew up hating that his brother, who was in prison, was treated as though he didn't exist.  He hated that there were so many secrets in his family, yet he didn't want to share any of his secrets either.  There was so much anger and confusion roiling around inside of Ari.  And it really came through in the writing.  I just wanted to hug him, and I remember being him.


And then Dante came into his life.  Dante was such a polar opposite of Ari, but like a light in the otherwise darkness of Ari's mind.  They were a strange pair, Aristotle and Dante, but they fit so perfectly together.  Dante taught Ari to swim, and became Ari's first ever real friend, let alone best friend.  He immersed Ari int art, and books, and a different family life than he was familiar with.  Dante made Ari feel things that he didn't want to.  He made Dante want to share his mind, which was something Ari just didn't do.


Watching them fall in love... It was amazing and beautifully written.  This was like a slice-of-life, but with a plot.  I wasn't always certain they were falling in love.  The author, in my opinion, keep me wondering.  I figured Dante out pretty easily, but Ari, as Dante called him, was "inscrutable".  Just when I thought maybe he returned Dante's feelings I was like, oh maybe not.  Even when Dante was beaten badly enough to be hospitalized, and Ari found out one of the boys who had done it, he went ballistic and returned the favor to the little punk.  Maybe I'm just clueless, but I certainly would destroy anyone who hurt my bestie, and I would definitely have pushed her out of the way of a moving vehicle.  That's what besties do, or at least I thought so.  Which is why it made sense to me when Ari continually said he hadn't done it on purpose, it had just been a reflex.  Protecting people you love-no matter the manner of love--is a reflex.  You don't think about it, you just do it.  I honestly believed for the longest time, that Ari loved Dante as a friend.  Their experimental kiss threw me off because the author tried very hard to make the romantic feelings seem one-sided...or as I said, I'm just clueless.


I'm not doing very well on this review.  This book has got me shooketh.  It was just a beautiful story, and I loved every page of it!  It was sad and funny and exciting and heartbreaking.  Dude, this book made me cry.  Not full-on ugly cry, but I got misty and that's a good as tears when it comes to me.  This book also triggered me a bit.  But it was a me-thing.  I was reminded, every time Ari thought about his father, of how much I miss mine.  And like with many other books on my shelves, I can't believe it took me so long to read this.