Review: ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I first read this gorgeous, delightful book around October 2014. I fell completely in love with it then but hadn’t reread it since. This month I had a bit of a spate of rereading books that I find super-comforting. This book easily ranks as one of my favourites.

Aristotle and Dante

Aristotle Mendoza, Ari, is a fifteen year old boy without particularly close friends and with a lot of angst, when he meets Dante Quintana at the pool. Dante teaches him to swim. Dante is different to other people Ari knows, his family works differently. The book focuses on the relationship between these two lovely, charming, funny, silly boys, and personally I think it’s impossible not to fall a little in love with these two.

While Ari and Dante are the centre of this universe, and all the secrets they’ll find in it, I love that it also takes in so many other strands of what makes being fifteen so strange. There are some hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking images and moments in this book, and plenty of quotes. If only I had found this as a teenager, I would definitely have identified strongly with some of Ari’s sentiments: The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea. I still do reading it today, but in a nostalgic way.

I don’t want to give spoilers because this story is so worth going into a little blind, with a lot of trust that it’s worth reading. It is about two boys figuring out who they want to be, where they want to go, on the bumpy road of growing up. It’s about families and friendship and all kinds of love, about surviving bad things and what happens afterwards, and about how you can support people the way they need. It is also beautifully written, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone considering picking it up.


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