About a month ago, I finished a fantastic book called Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.
Browsing through the library, this book popped out to me, because its cover was littered with so many prestigious awards (four to be exact, including the Printz Award, the Stonewall Book Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Pura Belpre Narrative Award). I picked it up and read the inside cover, wondering what made this book so good. I figured that it looked interesting enough, so I checked it out, took it home with me, and read it. Within the first few chapters, I immediately saw what made the book appeal to so many people.
The story is told from the point of view of a Mexican-American boy, Aristotle Mendoza. He will tell anyone who asks that, NO, he was NOT named after the philosopher, he got "stuck with his grandfather’s idiotic name, and it is JUST ARI, thank you very much." In the summer of his fifteenth year, he goes to a community swimming pool, and meets Dante Quintana. Dante is practically Aristotle’s polar opposite. Not only was Dante named after Alighieri, (yes, the philosopher and poet), but while Aristotle reads comics and listens to the radio, Dante visits art museums and gets lost in literature from another time.
While Aristotle is afraid to articulate how he really feels, Dante is open and self-assured. While Ari is scared of anything different, Dante embraces differences. Over the summer and the year that follows, the two boys become the best of friends, and teach each other so many things-how to learn, to live, and to love. The novel follows Ari and Dante’s journey from boyhood to manhood, as they learn about each other, themselves, how to embrace who you really are, and how to accept people for who they are.
I absolutely LOVED this book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone, young or old, who are mature readers and willing to read books with sensitive material such as gay relationships. This book opens your eyes to many issues that were so long taboo in our society, and the author addresses these issues with compassion, respect, and a sensitive perspective.
- Keiko, River Teen Tribunal Member