Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe tells the story of Ari and Dante, two Mexican-American adolescents living in El Paso, who meet one summer when Dante offers Ari to teach him how to swim. They are as different as they could be; Dante’s parents are an English professor and a psychiatrist respectively, while Ari has a father who’s a Vietnam vet struggling with PTSD, and an elder brother no one talks about anymore because he’s in prison. But the two boys grow closer than they ever expected.
I absolutely loved this book. Not only is the writing absolutely stunning and beautiful, but the story just pulled me right in and it’s actually everything I love in love stories; there’s very very slow burn and a super soft love story, and by the end of it I felt like I had melted into a puddle. Sáenz managed to write a story so inherently beautiful I had to sit and let the feelings wash over me for a bit after I was done.
The story is told through Ari’s eyes, which is a good choice in my opinion, because he is plays his cards close to his chest and while Dante is fairly open with his feelings and opinions, we know a lot of Ari’s only because he’s telling us the story. And while Ari insists that he’s not really good with words, his narration shows that he really has a way with them.
Both Ari and Dante are really lovable and round characters, but I also thought the background characters were really well written. The cast of background characters is fairly limited (the boys’ parents mostly, plus a few friends their age), but all of them felt like fully developed characters who could have been main characters of their own novels without having to do a ton of developing first.
I don’t really believe in perfection usually. I like to think that we can always do better, but I simply can’t find a fault in this novel. Obviously that doesn’t mean it actually is perfect, there might be nuances that elude me, but from what I can see Ari and Dante is about as close to perfection as you can get.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
Publication Date: 21 February 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 359
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.
But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.