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

Simon & Schuster | Hardcover, 359 pages
Young Adult | LGBT Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

“Something happened inside me as I looked out into the vast universe. Through that telescope, the world was closer and larger than I’d ever imagined. And it was all so beautiful and overwhelming and – I don’t know – it made me aware that there was something inside of me that mattered.” – Chapter 10, page 42

At a tender age of fourteen, Aristotle would set out his path to discover the secrets of his universe. He has questions he wants answered. He wants to know why his parents insist on erasing his brother’s presence in their lives when he’s still alive. He wants to know why he much preferred the company of his thoughts than actual people. He wants to know why Dante could be so full of curious energy and wonder when his endless questions seem to tire him out. Most of all, he wants to know why he’s so angry.

Meeting Dante might just be the catalyst that would take him on a journey to discover the secrets that have plagued him at such a young age. But it’s not going to be without trials.

What is not to love about this book? Captivating characters, engrossing tale of family, friendship and love. It is every bit as beautiful, tender, and fiercely honest. Some books are truly intimidating to review, and for all its accolades and acclaims, Aristotle and Dante has left me floundering for words. At the same time, it’s that type of book where you want to do everything you could to proclaim its greatness. I just want to shove this book to everyone I know because reading it is such an experience. Depending on what you take away from it, the book would make you feel like your heart was fuller than when you started reading.

The most unforgettable relationships are those forged in friendship first; Ari and Dante truly had that. While Dante was not very shy in admitting he liked kissing boys over girls, Ari didn’t really  come right out and say it. In fact, his parents sort of forced him out of the closet. Truth is, I was a little jarred by this. I’ve never heard of parents telling their son he’s gay instead of the son telling them he’s gay. In that sense, I thought it was a bit of a reach. But then again, if anybody knows Ari, it’s his parents. Ari has done a couple of pretty heroic stuff for Dante, so I guess I can understand why they thought Ari’s love for Dante is more than brotherly.

And yeah, you’re not going to cry. Your eyes will remain generally dry, but oh my goodness. Ari and Dante will make you feel like you have the fattest heart in the entire universe. The writing! As a fledgling poet, Benjamin incites jealousy of words; beautifully poetic, wonderfully hypnotic. There is a lyrical quality that makes me feel like I can hear a hymn as I read. But it’s so gentle, and not too obvious. You’ll have to sit there and savour its taste in your tongue.