Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My bookclub picked this book for the month's book to read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Aristotle was a pretty lonely boy until he met Dante one summer. Aristotle was determined to learn how to swim, and Dante just showed up and asked Ari if he could teach him how to swim. It was like it was meant to happen for them to become best friends.
As the summer continued, Ari and Dante were constantly hanging out: either at each others houses, at the pool, or just outside wherever they found themselves to go. It didn't matter what they did, but they were always around one another. Ari was happy that he finally found a friend he could hangout with.
But then Dante told him that his family was going up to Chicago for the school year, so Ari wouldn't be seeing him for 9 months. Now Ari is back to being by himself again. He is growing solemn and lonely again, so he starts to work at a burger joint, runs in the morning with his dog, and lifts weights in the basement that were his dads. By the time Dante sees Ari again, both boys are very different from when he left.
It isn't just the physical part of Ari that has changed, though. Ari is getting quieter and more serious. He doens't know what it wrong with him, but with the secret that his parents are keeping about Ari's older brother, the silence that his father has about being in the Vietnam War, and not really having many friends, Ari is not sure what is going on with himself.
And being away from Dante is getting to Ari as well. He doesn't write nearly any letters to Dante, even though Dante has written 2-3 letters a week to Ari.
When shit hits the fan, though, everyone in Ari's life comes together to work on their individual issues in order to help Ari figure out what his inner struggle is trying to say to himself, but he is just too stubborn to listen to it.
This was a great book. It was written so well and the message that the novel is giving to the reader is priceless. I won't give away too much, but I will say that Dante is gay and Ari doesn't have a problem being friends with a guy who likes to kiss other guys.
I don't read too many novels about GBLT characters. Most of the time, I can't relate to their inner struggles they go through in the book because I'm not GBLT. It makes it a bit hard for me to read because I can connect with the readers like I do with other novels. Being able to relate or connect is 98% of the time why I read the novels that I do, and then the other 2% is the adventure and story that goes on that I probably won't ever experience in my life. But being able to have that inner connection - the understanding - helps me enjoy the rest of the made up story.
But I have to say, I really didn't have that issue with this novel because Ari was the main character and the story wasn't 100% about GBLT. So maybe I need to start reading more and seeing if all novels are like this one. Maybe I'll enjoy reading all of them!
I really loved Ari. He is such a hero and wants to be accepted by all, but then he doesn't really give a shit if he's not liked by anyone at all. He's a very complicated character, but he certainly is not drama filled at all. I love his family. He dad has been through hell and back in the war and he's a very quiet man, which is where I think Ari gets it from. And his relationship with his mother is fantastic. I seriously love the scenes with those two. I love that he got his dog Legs and how Ari grew up into a great man. I can seriously picture him going through his daily routine of running, working, school, lifting weights. And that is a guy that I would try to get to know.
It is a bit weird to think that this book was set during the year that I was born... And that the subject of being gay was so bad back in the 80s. I mean, depending on where you are at, the subject of being gay today in the 21st century might have the exact same reaction, but there are some parts in the world that have gotten significantly better. But it just hurts my heart that what happened to Dante happened. He was so sad and down spirited afterward and that is not the Dante that the reader fell in love with.
I saw that there is going to be a second novel?? I'm very excited about this and I cannot wait to see what happens after this ending! I'll be anxiously waiting for it to be published and I will devour it and love it.
I'm very glad that Benjamin Alire Saenz wrote this novel and I am going to explore more of his novels :)
Read this novel. It will touch your soul.
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