Thursday, March 7, 2013

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: a review

By Benjamin Alire Saenz
Simon and Schuster; copyright 2012; 368 pages

ALA Notable Children's Books - Older Readers Category: 2013
Pura Belpre Award (Narrative)
School Library Journal Best Books: 2012
Stonewall Book Awards: Children's and Young Adult Literature Award
YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2013

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.

~Goodreads Description~

So this is the second book in a row that I've read that I haven't been absolutely thrilled about upon completion.  It's well written and thoughtful, but for some reason I just didn't relate to either character.

The Breakdown
Aristotle is a loner. His family worries that he doesn't have any friends, he'd rather be alone than with...well, anyone...and he doesn't feel like he fits anywhere. Dante, on the other hand, always knows just what to say, and he loves saying a lot. These two mismatched teens find each other one summer at the swimming pool and become fast friends. Dante saying a lot, and Aristotle hardly saying anything at all. This coming of age story is about honesty, friendship, family, and allowing yourself to let people in so that you can discover your true potential.

The Awesome
Teen fiction isn't really known for honest books about loving, sharing family relationships. This refreshing story show two separate families that truly love another and accept each other faults and all. It's also rare to find a teen book specifically about two teenage guys. No love triangles. No prom dresses. Just two guys trying to find their way in the world.

The Not So Awesome
It's not that it wasn't awesome.  Perhaps it was the build up of award season.  The shining reviews.  Or maybe it was just because it didn't have fairies or zombies.  I love fairies and zombies.  The characters just didn't seem real.  I didn't feel like I could know a Dante or Aristotle, like they could really exist.  Which is weird.  I should probably feel that way about all of John Green's characters, with their super intellectual conversations and deep thought.  Maybe what was lacking was an original voice.

It was well written though.  And heartfelt.  And worth my time, so I do recommend reading.

For a different, heartfelt realistic fiction book try Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Related Titles: Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Favorite Quotes: “Senior year. And then life. Maybe that's the way it worked. High school was just a prologue to the real novel. Everybody got to write you -- but when you graduated, you got to write yourself. At graduation you got to collect your teacher's pens and your parents' pens and you got your own pen. And you could do all the writing. Yeah. Wouldn't that be sweet?”

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