Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aristotle Mendoza is a quiet, tough-to-reach boy growing up in Texas in 1987. Dante Quintana is a irrepressible, curious boy who teaches Ari how to swim & becomes his best friend over the summer. They bond over their unique names, their differing perspectives, & being oddballs in a community that seems to expect something undefined from them. When the summer ends with Aristotle saving Dante from a speeding car, the two are brought closer together, only to be pulled apart by a cross-country move & their separate paths to maturity. When Dante returns to Texas the next summer, Ari must rediscover his friendship with Dante & confront why he means so much to him.

So there is really one reason why I originally picked up this audiobook & it’s because Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates it. The premise itself, two teenage Latino boys in the 80s becomes friends & eventually fall in love with each other, was interesting & piqued my curiosity since I had just finished a Love & Rockets binge. (Which, by the way, if you like L&R & are willing to give YA a try, you’ll like this.) I ended up loving Sáenz’s story, which is very atmospheric & consistently conveys the tense immediacy of a teenager’s perspective. The relationships outlined here, not just between the boys, are also well-illustrated & kept me listening to the story, particularly Ari’s struggle to connect with his father & Dante & Ari’s arguments on who was “more Mexican.” A fantastic story that gives readers a different take on the “young love in the summer” trope. I’m more curious now about Sáenz’s other books & hope the upcoming sequel will live up to the first.

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