By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian
Have you ever read a book that you just can’t stop thinking about after you’re done? I recently read a book like that (or to be more accurate, listened to a book like that) which I finished almost two weeks ago, and still have on my mind. So it’s not actually that I just read today’s book, but since I’m still obsessing about it, it feels like I just finished it!
What I Just Read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
What’s It About (Jacket Description): A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Did I Like It: It’s still making me happy and slightly preoccupied about it, so I think it’s safe to say YES!
Thoughts: First off, that description does not do this book justice. As far as I’m concerned, Aristotle and Dante was completely magical. For starters, the setting is so incredibly well created, and so lovingly described, it made me want to go to El Paso, Texas – in the summer no less. Definitely a first for me! Even more impressively, the writing somehow managed to simultaneously sound like a real teenage boy first person perspective and be stunningly beautiful and poetic. I’m not sure how Sáenz pulled that one off exactly, but he did, and it’s amazing. The way the scenes are described, whether scenes of looking at stars, or watching thunderstorms, or even just hanging out at a city swimming pool, made me feel like I was really there, and like every one of those scenes or places or settings had a beauty and a magic of its own. But at the same time, Ari’s first person perspective also felt completely authentic. I recognized some of my own teenage thoughts and feelings in him, (but of course, plenty that was new to me too). His voice was uniquely his own, and even the most poetic writing never made me doubt that Ari was the voice behind it.
And Ari and Dante – oh Ari and Dante! They were both a little strange and kind of quirky, but never obnoxious or unbelievable. They were witty and funny, but also sometimes awkward and a kind of weird and really struggling to express what they felt and who they really were. Sometimes they even struggled to express that to themselves. And their relationship with each other was just wonderful to read about. It tugged at my heartstrings every time they were on the page together, and sometimes even when they weren’t (like in their letters.) The way their lives intertwined, and the way they acted around each other, was by far the highlight of this book, and a huge part of what made me love it so much.
But every character – from the boys’ parents to the dog Legs to even Ari’s truck – felt like a complete, real character inhabiting a complete, real world. It’s just that in this book, the real world is a little more amazing than our own world. Which makes sense, because any world that has Ari and Dante has to be just a little bit more magical than our own.