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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (edition 2012)

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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6777314,123 (4.36)19
Member:stephiewonder
Title:Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Authors:Benjamin Alire Saenz
Info:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2012), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Wishlist
Rating:*****
Tags:YA, LGBTQ, self-discovery, romance, chican@, southwest, bildungsroman

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

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Any reader who has passed through adolescence will immediately recognize Dante and Ari and the angst of being a teenager. Both boys are loners but for different reasons. Dante is outgoing but marches to his own drummer making him less than popular with his peers. Articulating his thoughts and feelings is difficult for Ari, this combined with a righteous anger over his older brother’s incarceration tends to alienate potential friends. As the boys cope with family problems, uncertain futures, and their own sexual identities they learn to trust each other and ultimately themselves. ( )
  knitwit2 | Dec 20, 2014 |
Summary: 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. ( )
  dalzan | Dec 1, 2014 |
This came highly recommended, and I picked it up for a taste of something different. It's a teen book with gay themes, and the protagonists are Mexican-Americans. A fairly rare flower.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of things here that put me off. I didn't realize that Aristotle and Dante were really the main character's names, which far passes heavy-handed and goes all the way to ridiculous. The main character is Ari, who is an angry, out-of-place youth. He doesn't know what he wants from life. He's just sad. Constantly. All the time. And he's not sure why. He just knows he's sad. And he wants to know about his brother. Maybe it was because I read this in a couple sittings, but the themes of sadness and the silence about his brother were just... a lot. There was a lot of that in there.

Admittedly, I have a hard time relating to depression in fiction since it's not something I've dealt with, so perhaps this has more gravity if you can relate to Ari. To me, Ari read like an almost-caricature of an angry teen.

I almost quit when Dante and Ari got into poetry together when Ari began visiting Dante's house. I knew zero people in high school who read a poetry book, then passed it around to everyone. Similarly, when my friends were sick, I did not bring them Hemingway to cheer them up in their convalescence when I was 16. Nobody did.

I also HATED the ending. I would have liked it more if there had been any indication AT ALL through the entire narrative that was going to happen. The very end began to go that way, but I thought there'd be more introspection. Instead... surprise! It just happens! Dealing with sexuality like flipping a light switch is one of my pet peeves.

But there was a lot of nice stuff in here, too. I thought Ari's relationship with his own parents, and his relationship with Ari's parents, was fantastic. I also liked that Ari did a lot of regular teenager stuff. He had a dog, a job, some friends he hung out with. He sometimes drank, and he occasionally smoked pot with Dante. He got a truck for his birthday. I think the unrealistic parts of the story bothered me a lot more because so much about the everyday life of Ari was so wonderful.

I also liked the way that Dante's homosexuality was dealt with throughout the book. He comes out to Ari about a third of the way through, and Ari acts as a sounding board while Dante explores his identity. I also liked that Dante having a crush on Ari, and Ari rejecting him, really didn't change their relationship.

I think this is a great book, and I love that it's popular and hopefully finding its way into the hands of teens who really need a story like this. Like I said, I think the things that bugged me were worse only because the characters were so wonderfully down-to-earth, mostly easy to relate to, and that I loved that this kind of story exists now. ( )
  ConnieJo | Nov 30, 2014 |
Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. 2012. 359 pp. $16.99. Simon & Schuster. 978-1-44240-892-0. Ages 13 & Up.
Ari is doesn’t have any friends, and he prefers it that way. His parents refuse to talk to him about his brother who is in prison, his father still has nightmares from war, and Ari is beginning to have bad dreams of his own. Then Ari meets Dante, the educated and sensitive son of a Professor and a Psychologist. Dante is expressive and artistic, and wants more than anything to penetrate Ari’s tough exterior. As the two bond they question their sexuality and their identities as Mexican Americans and as men. But despite Dante’s influence, Ari still struggles to be honest with himself, and with the world, about his true feelings for Dante. A touching and honest story about coming-of-age and falling in love; the story will resonate with LGBTQ youth, minorities, and any youth struggling with issues of identity. ( )
  alovett | Nov 20, 2014 |
This book crafts a wonderfully moving story out of concepts that are historically underrepresented in young adult fiction. Aristotle (Ari) may at first glimpse appear to be the typical teenage boy with growing feelings of disillusionment and frustration at life, but it soon becomes clear that he is so much more than just another archetype. One boring summer, Ari happens to meet Dante, a quiet nerd who has trouble connecting to people despite his vibrant personality. Together the two come of age and learn to navigate the pressures of family life and school, but also learn what it means to be Mexican-American, how to respond to discrimination and the bullying of falling somewhere outside the sanctioned lines of traditional Americana, such as identifying LGBTQ. Although the writing style is fairly simple, the depth and complexity in portraying the characters lends the story a poignant sensitivity that is able to connect on a visceral level. At times, the plot can seem to rely too heavily on specific events in a formulaic ‘this happened, which led to that,’ but this fault can be forgiven when one considers the book as a whole. Ultimately it is overwhelmingly successful in highlighting the humanity in a segment of the population that is so often underrepresented in literature, prompting the reader to wonder, “Why aren’t there more books like this?” Recommended for purchase. ( )
  kornelas1 | Oct 23, 2014 |
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added by gsc55 | editBoys in our Books, Susan (Nov 12, 2014)
 
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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.
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Book description
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. [Simon&Schuster]
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Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.

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