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.