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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aristotle and Dante (1)

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5,9063491,653 (4.27)108
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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» See also 108 mentions

English (345)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (349)
Showing 1-5 of 345 (next | show all)
"SAT in the backseat" ( )
  salllamander | Feb 11, 2024 |
I read this in one night—it was an intense, funny, and very readable portrait of two boys and their families. I feel compelled to compare it to A Separate Peace - the books have only a few elements in common but they seem to comment on one another.

Writing in first person, Saenz' pacing feels a little off, and the narrative style sometimes breaks conventional rules about showing vs. telling. I think this happened because he was listening to the voice of his character so intently, so it's not a grave fault.

The ending was not surprising, especially if you saw it reviewed, as I did, in professional magazines, but it was still very sweet. ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
4.5 stars. This book made me laugh and cry, and it's been a while since a book has made me cry. I love Ari and Dante and their families are great. I liked seeing the contrast between Ari and Dante; Dante is very open and vulnerable and not afraid to be himself or say how he feels. Ari is emotionally closed off, which he gets from his parents, especially his dad. Ari has a hard time opening up to people and letting them in but Dante has a way of getting past his walls and barriers and I love seeing their friendship in this book. This is definitely a coming of age story and both Ari and Dante are learning about life and themselves. It was also interesting to see Dante's struggle with his identity as a Mexican American and not feeling like a "real" Mexican, though I wish we could have seen more of that internal struggle but we aren't reading from Dante's POV so I understand why we're limited. This book isn't very big on descriptions, so if you like a lot of descriptions than this is a downside, however I feel like the writing is very realistic and true to the voice of a 15 year old teenage guy (they're usually not big on descriptions). Overall I really enjoyed this one. ( )
  VanessaMarieBooks | Dec 10, 2023 |
Actual rating: 4.5/5

This book had been on my TBR for a very long time, and it is a firm favourite in the bookish community. So, when it was made available on NetGalley again for a limited time ahead of the sequel coming out later this year, I jumped at the chance to finally read it. And I am so, so glad I did.

Aristotle and Dante is a beautiful, tender and heart-wrenching coming of age story. I sometimes struggle to get really drawn into contemporary YA nowadays, but I had no such problem with this book. I was glued to this book from the very first page, right up to the end.

Ari and Dante are, for different reasons, two very complex and compelling characters. Seeing all events unfold through Ari's eyes, hearing his inner struggles first hand, made it almost impossible not to sympathise with him. Was he always making the best choices or behaving blamelessly? Oh, no. But then, he shouldn't really have to, and I was glad to get to know a teenage boy who actually faces the full struggle of living his teenage years in very difficult circumstances. His emotions are all over the place, but I found myself really understanding his pain and his struggle to communicate this to those around him.

By contrast, I found it harder to get really attached to Dante, but that is probably because he is always filtered by Ari. Still, he was also beautifully drawn, revealing his complexity and his inner torments only a little at a time. Their friendship is one of the sweetest, most tender friendships I can remember reading about, and I was there for it!

I also really liked the parents and how involved they were in their children's lives. Their patience and willingness to question themselves, and even challenge themselves when they realised their children needed them to, was absolutely brilliant and flawlessly executed. I love positive parent-child relationships in YA particularly, and this was one of the best I have seen.

One thing that was a bit hit-and-miss for me in an otherwise brilliant reading experience was the writing style. I generally like a more poetic style, similar to the one the author adopted here, and I liked how he managed to still keep the text simple without being weighed down by lyricisms. However, most of the dialogues, especially the ones between Ari and Dante, came across as a bit too clunky and unrealistic, even for two exceptional boys such as them. This is obviously a personal preference, but I found it really distracting and it happened just too often to ignore.

Despite that, I still loved this book and the calm, quiet way it deals with significant, life-changing, scary and, sometimes, outright painful themes of identity, belonging, family, friendship, love and, ultimately finding your place in the world. I'm really looking forward to the sequel now!
I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way. ( )
  bookforthought | Nov 7, 2023 |
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”

[b:Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe|12000020|Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante, #1)|Benjamin Alire Sáenz|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1328320260l/12000020._SY75_.jpg|16964419] is a coming of age story about two Mexican-American teenage boys who are trying to figure out their place in the world. It deals with topics such as friendship, identity, sexuality, and family relationships.

The story begins with Dante offering to teach Ari how to swim, and their friendship blossoms from there.

Throughout the novel, Dante is constantly teaching Ari about life and changes his perspective on a lot of topics. Ari hates his life but when he meets Dante, his life seems to be more tolerable and his outlook on many things seems to become more positive.

At the end of their first summer together, Ari pushed Dante out of the way of an oncoming car and is beaten up badly. Only weeks later, Dante moves to Chicago. This only makes their friendship grow stronger, whether they notice it or not.

Both are going through their own problems; Ari with his brother and Dante with his sexuality. The best part about friendship is the ability to go back to normal after not talking for so long, or after dealing with personal problems. Both boys are trying to find themselves in the world.

Ari struggles with family issues for a long time before his family finally opens up about why his brother is in prison. He also deals with his closed-off father, who is still scarred from his time in Vietnam.

Dante realizes he's into kissing boys instead of girls and is ashamed of himself. Dante gets caught kissing a boy in an alley and is beat up for it. Ari becomes protective and Dante and finds out who is responsible for giving his best friend pain.

We find out that Dante is in love with Ari in like the middle of the book...and Ari is still clueless about his sexuality. But when he comes to terms with the fact that he reciprocates those feelings, he also feels a sense of shame -- having been in love with his best friend and not realizing it.

But when the two fully realize and admit their feelings, the book closes with a happy ending. ( )
  orderofthephoenix | Oct 22, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 345 (next | show all)
added by gsc55 | editBoys in our Books, Susan (Nov 12, 2014)
added by gsc55 | editMM Good Book Reviews, Tams (Oct 2, 2014)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Benjamin Alire Sáenzprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miranda, Lin-ManuelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed


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Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?
To all the boys who've had to learn to play by different rules
First words
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.
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. (p. 29)
The whole world seemed to be quiet and calm and I wanted to be the world and feel like that. (p. 105)
My mother and father held hands. I wondered what that was like, to hold someone's hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone's hand. (p. 140)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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