Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I have been meaning to read this book and just books in general by this author. I put this one in particular off just because of all the praise I have heard surrounding it and just all the awards that covered the front of it. As much as I think awards for books that are great are awesome, I still want the book overall to stand on its own.


During the summary of Ari's Junior/Senior year , Dante moves to town. The boys quickly become best friends and during that summer learn more about themselves and the world around them. Overall I really enjoyed this . It was a cute coming of age story with lgbt main characters . Even though I really liked it and overall see why it is so heavily praised I didn't think it was perfect . In fact there were quite a few things that just didn't sit well with me and took the star rating down a bit.


Things I was not the biggest fan of :
1. The kiss: Maybe was just me but the first kiss really just did not set right with me. I was not a fan of Dante basically badgering his friend to kiss him. Ari said no and that should have been the end of it. Was also not a fan of the  the comment of how do you know you don't like kissing boys if you haven't tried. Just if this was said by a straight character to a gay one think people would be pissed because such things happen in real life and in every sort of media. And it is common for people to ask various lgb people how do they know what they are if they have not done x and it is offensive as all fuck. Just was really mad that this was something said by one of the characters at all. I also wished the kiss at the end had been "the first" Just to me this kiss sort of cheapens the effect of the one at the end. Just again someone can firmly know their sexuality whether they have or have not kissed people they are sexually attracted to or those they are not. Someone does not have to experiment to know for sure . If some people do that is more than ok too. It is more others, mostly straight people, telling them that they can't know til they do. 
2. Along with that: Ari's lie about the kiss: During that scene I didn't get the feeling he overall enjoyed it or was hiding feelings about it. In fact until closer to the end I really thought this was a book about Dante discovering he just prefers boys, overall dealing with those developing feelings and having his friend Ari grow to accept that his best friend is gay. I would love a book that deals with that though.  I am still happy that the two did have mutual feelings for one another but just I didn't get the vibe from the kiss moment that Ari was hiding the fact that he actual enjoyed it.
3. Ari's sit down with his parents: I have nothing against characters slowly coming to turns that they are gay or bi or any other sexuality, but prefer it is on their own turns. The whole sit down with his parents was was really uncomfortable to read and just to me at least makes it seem like if you deeply care for someone, risk you life for them that you must only be in love with them, which is total bullshit. In this case, it was the truth, but very much dislike that just because Ari saved Dante's life that he is thus in love with him instead of deeply loving him because he is his best friend. Loving someone does not go hand and hand with underlying romantic feelings.Platonic friendship love is a thing and the fact that the parents sort of jump to well he is in love with him seems rash. 


Things I was on the fence about :
1. Why Ari's brother was in jail:This was a pretty big thing to the story and just thought the whole he was imprisoned because he beat up and killed someone who was either trans or someone who crossed dressed just feels really forced to me.
2. Gay relative that gay/bi character doesn't know about til later on in their life: Have no issue with other gay family members being people that gay/bi teen character especially can turn to or get support from them . Just have an issue of such people written in and being an overwritten plot point and them really having no other character development other than they are the secret lgbt relative for the main character to relate to in some way.They are not a person in their own right is what I have issues with . 
3. Relationship before "the relationship" is always awful: Again  it is just an overwritten plot point. This case think it was not trying to be that but just tired of the the trend of  all previous relationships before "the one" being written  as awful. People can enjoy the previous people they were with and still very much be in love with person they are with/marry/etc . In this case,think it was very much that Dante was trying to get with someone just because he was trying to be ok with just being friends with Ari when he really loved him. Again, though, the  main point still stands and again just tired of seeing past  relationships written in that sort of way.


Things I really enjoyed:
1. The characters felt like teens, talked about stuff teen would talked about and dealt with natural parts of growing up: Alot of books shy away from certain topics because it is written for teens or because parents of or adults in general don't like to deal with the fact that teens deal with certain things so it was nice to see that this book deals with topics like masturbation , which alot of teen books refuse say even happens. 
2. Being gay is part of an identity and not the only defining part of an identity:Again why the gay relative aspect bothered me because overall this book is very much about characters that happen to be gay and not only focused on being gay. Think books about the latter or very much needed, but it is nice when characters in any sort of book are people first and not just characters who only character trait is that they are gay. There is struggles with being Mexican-American, identity of being an only child and being worried of disappointing parents, struggling with family secrets that never get touched and talked about and the damage that does to all members of the family.


Again think this is an overall great Young adult novel that to me is about the journey of growing up and those characters just happen to be lgbt in some way. Think many young adults will find some part of themselves in Ari or Dante even if they are not lgbt . The book deals with heavy hitting topics such as homophobia, family trauma, grief, dealing with family secrets and coming to terms with family, being lgbt and just learning to love the things about yourself.


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