Sunday, December 13, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe

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



A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. 

I think this is the first time I've ever posted a review of a book that I'm re-reading, but I just felt that it would be appropriate. I never reviewed this one the first time I read it, go figure, so I think its alright to write down everything I love about it this time around. 

full review under the cut

 This is one of my all-time favorite books. I think it's stunning, different, and it deals with issues that you see less than you should in YA lit. I have a ton of respect for everything going on in this novel, and I have to say that it makes me feel melancholy and reflective, just from the sheer force of its words. Beautiful novel, something to read while it rains or snows this holiday season.

I read this book for the first time almost two years ago. A lot of things have changed in that period of time. I graduated high school, I went to college, I lived in a foreign country for three months, I made an entirely new set of friends, I'd like to think I changed, grew, and am now better than I was then. A lot of books I reread underwhelm me the second time: especially contemporaries. I sometimes feel like the things I found magical about the books when I read them for the first time lose that sparkle when I go back to them years later. However, even with all of the changes that took place in my life over the past two years, I don't think this book is any less special to me than it was the first time I finished it. That is hard to do, but I think that is the nature of this novel. 

This book is about two Mexican-American teenagers living in Texas in the late 1980's. They meet in the summer when they are fifteen, and the book spans nearly the next two years of their lives. Their names are Angel Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana, and they are both beautiful boys harboring their own demons. Aristotle, or Ari, as he likes to be called, is struggling with being the much younger brother of three siblings, one of which is a brother in prison, and with a father who has scars of his own, inflicted by the Vietnam War. He is quiet and contemplative, someone who perceives and keeps his feelings to himself, content with his own company. In comparison, Dante is a no-filter only child who hates shoes and savors everything. He loves art and poetry and kissing, it doesn't matter who. And most of all he loves Ari. 

They meet in the dead of summer when they both need a friend more than anything, and out of that grows an extraordinary friendship that is, for the most part, unshakable. Dante is the one that pulls Ari out of his shell, getting him to talk about things that he would never have otherwise. Ari is the cool temper to Dante excitable nature, and it is this that makes them perfect for each other. Y'all know how much I love relationships that are "literally everyone can see that these two love each other except the two themselves," and this is sort of like that. Dante tells Ari from pretty early on that he loves him, but it takes Ari a while to realize his own feelings, hidden under shame and disbelief as they were. I love how supportive both sets of parents were of this development: the last chapter is a completely beautiful experience.

Speaking of parents, there are some pretty awesome ones in this novel. I think, along with Ari and Dante learning about themselves throughout this book, they are also learning about their parents, and mostly how to love and accept them as their parents love and accept the boys. The Quintanas and the Mendozas get along well, made up as they are of one outwardly affectionate and one stoic parent. Though this book is from Ari's POV, I feel like we get to know the Quintanas just as well through his eyes as we do his own parents. I love Ari's parents, especially his mom. I think she's drily hilarious and understanding of her son, even when she doesn't necessarily agree with him. I love how the relationships between parents and son were portrayed as really positive things, and they their parents played such an active role in their lives throughout. 

Basically, this is a gorgeous novel. The writing is incredibly well-thought out, and I just found myself drinking in the prose on every page. A true gem of a book: it isn't very long, but it packs an emotional punch in the pages that it does have. Definite must-read for those of you that are the least bit interested!!! 



No comments:

Post a Comment

80% Read the Printed Word!