Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe | Benjamin Alire Sáenz

This Review contains spoilers. 

Ari and Dante“Words were different when they lived inside of you.” 

Published: 2012, by Simon and Schuster.
Pages: 358
Format: Paperback
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Teen, LGBT, Contemporary
Contains: Strong Language, Emotional Pain, Homophobia, Drug and Alcohol use.


‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ is a coming of age tale about a lone teenager, who values his solitude, discovering himself after meeting a boy his opposite. Ari’s life circulated around his loneliness, not allowing those around him to get too close, until he meets Dante. The two become fast friends, them both learning from another, until an accident which starts the beginning of their deteriorating friendship.

This novel has been one of my favourite reads all year, spending the majority of Christmas lost in the lives of these two teens. Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s writing is one of the most beautiful I’ve read, his words never failing to make me gasp and pause to reflect on his use of language. Regardless, of how the story is about a teen, Ari’s intelligence is clear in the narrative, his thought processes beautifully written as he comes to terms with the accident and the discovery of his sexuality. One of the main things I loved about this story was the language when referring to emotional pain, written with such passion that vividly shows the confusion Ari was going through throughout the novel.

The dialogue between the protagonists, Ari and Dante, was incredibly fluid throughout the story, getting easily lost in their conversations and making the reading very simple. After taking a break from university reading, I was ecstatic with my decision to pick up this book, having needed an easy escape and the dialogue made that much easier. Their interactions were some of my favourites, loving their relationship and the novel’s climax was a perfect end to the story.

Another thing about this story was the inability to hate any of the characters, each having their moment to shine and fall in love with. Personally, I adored Dante and his family the most, him and his parents interactions being adorable from beginning to end. His mother was especially one of my favourites, her interactions with Ari being sweet and loving throughout the piece. However, if there was an initial dislike for a character, Sáenz urged you to think differently as the story moved forwards. A prime example of this being Ari’s father, Jaime, someone that Ari talked somewhat bad of at the beginning of the piece, until discovering more of his character. His character was one I eventually loved at the end, his history heartbreaking yet his strength being an inspiration to readers. However, one character I do wished we knew more of was Ari’s brother, a mystery throughout the entire book. Yet according to ‘Goodreads’ there will be a second installment, so I’m hoping for more context on him soon.

Overall, I loved this novel, finding the plot, characters and setting of the piece perfect, and I’m so glad I couldn’t resist the gorgeous cover.



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