Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Sunday, December 6, 2015

Plot Summary:
During one hot summer in Texas, Aristotle met Dante. Aristotle is loner who doesn't say much and Dante, who is quite the opposite of Aristotle, kick start an unusual friendship that will revel they have more in common other than their philosophical namesakes. Although Aristotle has been pestered by his mother to make friends, Dante was so different from the other guys he know that he took a leap a faith and befriended Dante. As he gets to know Dante, Aristotle finally acknowledges that the he has issues. For example, why did his parents not talk about his older brother? Why doesn't his father ever talk about Vietnam? More importantly, why is he unable to allow himself to have feelings for other people? These questions never bothered him before, but, Dante, who is so charismatic and honest with himself, ignites something within Aristotle to want more.

 As their friendship evolves, Aristotle introduces Dante to his family and it ended up being a blessing in disguise: The Mendozas and the Santanas form a familial friendship, Aristotle's father is smiling and talking again, and Dante's parents adore Aristotle. Just when things started to look up for Aristotle, the accident changed. Why did Aristotle do what he did and why does he try so hard to push Dante away? Furthermore, what lengths will Aristotle take to protect his best friend? In this incredibly lyrical, and honest, tale about two friends is a journey about self-discovery, forgiveness, family, and love.

Critical Evaluation:
Benjamin Alire Sáenz has written a masterpiece. Not only is this a story about two boys discovering who they are, butwhat their choices and actions will reveal about their world. When I first started reading this book, I didn't know what to expect and I can honestly say that I have never felt so hopeful for the youth of today. In other words, the revelation that is revealed in this story will not only help questioning teens like Aristotle, but inspire other teens to stand up for who they are just like Dante. Saenz is an amazing writer who not only knows how to develop  his characters, but the plot takes the reader on an incredible journey that is not only cathartics, but eye-opening for others. I would definitely recommend this book to teens who are not just struggling with their identity, but teens who feel they will never find their place in world. Whether your straight, gay, trans, red, yellow, brown, or black, everyone struggles with who they are and, luckily, there is always someone who will be able to help piece together the puzzle that is who we are. Although the ending of this story will leave readers begging for a sequel, I have no doubt that Aristotle and Dante found exactly what they are looking for in life and from one another.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:

Benjamín Alire Sáenz studied at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver Colorado, the University of Louvain in Louvain, Belgium, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Iowa and Stanford University where he was a Wallace E. Stegner fellow in poety. While at Stanford, he also pursued his doctoral studies in American Literature. He has studied philosophy, art history, theology, creative writing and literary studies with a focus on twentieth century American poetry.
In 2005, Cinco Puntos Press published his first young adult novel, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood. The novel was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Americas Book Award, The Paterson Prize, and the JHunt Award. Sammy and Juliana was also named one of the top ten Young Adult novels by the American Library Association and was also named one of the top books of the year by the Center for Children's Books, Captial Choices, The New York Public Library and the Miami Herald. HarperCollins has just released Sammy and Juliana in a paperback edition and has been released as an audio book from Listening Library (Random House). His second young adult novel, He Never Said Goodbye, was published by Simon & Schuster and won the Tomas Rivera Award in 2009. His most recent young adult novel, Last Night I sang to the Monster has won critical acclaim will be published by Simon and Schuster in the summer of 2008. His next young adult novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster. 

Teen LGBTQ Fiction, Teen Fictions, Teen Lit for Guys, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson bu John Green and Davis Levithan
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Yaqui Delgado Will Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Awards & Recognition:

* "A tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

* "Authentic teen and Latino dialogue should make it a popular choice." (School Library Journal, starred review)

* "Meticulous pacing and finely nuanced characters underpin the author's gift for affecting prose that illuminates the struggles within relationships." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"Sáenez writes toward the end of the novel that “to be careful with people and words was a rare and beautiful thing.” And that’s exactly what Sáenez does—he treats his characters carefully, giving them space and time to find their place in the world, and to find each other...those struggling with their own sexuality may find it to be a thought-provoking read." (Booklist)

"Sáenz has written the greater love story, for his is the story of loving one’s self, of love between parents and children, and of the love that builds communities, in addition to the deepening love between two friends." (VOYA)

"Ari’s first-person narrative—poetic, philosophical, honest—skillfully develops the relationship between the two boys from friendship to romance." (The Horn Book)

"Primarily a character- and relationship-driven novel, written with patient and lyrical prose that explores the boys’ emotional lives with butterfly-wing delicacy."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Sáenz is a master at capturing the conversation of teens with each other and with the adults in their lives." (Library Media Connection, Recommended)

"This book took my breath away. What gorgeous writing, and what a story! I loved both these boys. And their parents! Don't we all wish we had parents like theirs? The ending - and the way it unfolded - was so satisfying. I could go on and on...suffice it to say I will be highly recommending it to one and all. I'm sure I'll reread it myself at some point. I hated having it end." (James Howe, Author of Addie on the Inside)

"I’m absolutely blown away. This is Saenz's best work by far...It’s a beautiful story, so beautifully told and so psychologically acute! Both Ari and Dante are simply great characters who will live on in my memory. Everything about the book is absolutely pitch perfect...It’s already my favorite book of the year!" (Michael Cart, Booklist columnist and YALSA past president)

“Benjamin Alire Saenz is a writer with a sidewinder punch. Spare sentences connect resonant moments, and then he knocks you down with emotional truth. The story of Ari and Dante’s friendship widens and twists like a river, revealing truths about how hard love is, how family supports us, and how painfully deep you have to go to uncover an authentic self.” (Judy Blundell, National Book Award-winning author of What I Saw and How I Lied) 

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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