Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Hardcover, 368 pages
Aristotle doesn’t have many friends. Most people, to him, are people he knows. Until summer and Dante offers to teach him how to swim. They become friends. Real, proper friends. Something neither boy ever really had. So they spend the summer swimming, chasing kids who kill birds, reading poetry, and trying to figure out what matters.
Life is complicated, and growing up is complicated, and Saenz captures the complexities of growing up and self-discovery in this beautifully written story. Ari’s story isn’t just his relationship with Dante, but also the story of family secrets, and learning how to open up. Sometimes it seems like adult characters in YA novels are written flat, serving only to move the plot forward or be the wise character who helps the protagonist find their way, and there’s a place for that and a reader for those stories. But one of the things I loved about Aristotle and Dante is that the adult characters were, as Dante says, people. They’re flawed. They have histories and struggles and it is those things that influence how they interact with the protagonists and how the protagonists interact with them.
I feel evangelical zeal for this one. Everyone needs to read it.
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