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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz Although I’d heard fantastic things about this book, I was nervous about whether I’d be able to relate to a book about two teenage boys. I was so silly. The characters in this book are real, so much so that knowing nothing about being a teenage boy, I’m still convinced the author captured them perfectly. In fact, I’d say the reason I cried when I finished this book was because it was so raw and real and sad but also so beautifully happy all at the same time. I never thought I’d find myself saying this, since I generally avoid emotional books, but I loved it because it gave me all of the feels. Forget whether or not you get teenage boys (and really, does anyone get teenage boys?). This is a book about two people who are brought to life more vividly than any other characters I’ve ever read about. It’s also by far the most invested I’ve ever been in a fictional relationship.

Everyone knows this book as a book about LGBT issues, but the boys in this book also deal with everything from choices about sex and drugs to being part of a minority. These weighty topics were covered in a way that was profoundly moving and thoughtful without ever being preachy. Seriously, I don’t usually even notice quotes in this book and every few pages, the author was saying something that captured a truth so perfectly, I had to go write it down. The writing was fantastic in other ways as well. As you might guess from my raving about the feels, the author does a great job capturing emotion. For instance, when Ari and Dante meet, the author has a description of how it feels when you meet someone and just know you’re going to be friends. He described the feeling in a way that really resonated with me – hey, I’ve been there! And his pacing was spot on. I liked the short vignettes of Ari’s life which let me get to know him bit by bit. And the staccato sentences of conversation popping back and forth between good friends was part of what brought the characters so much to life.

In short, I think the author tackles incredibly difficult issues in a moving and thought-provoking way. I think he makes great points about acceptance and responsible choices without explicitly saying anything to that effect. He perfectly describes the turmoil of being a teenager and the challenges of being human. So go hand this to a teenager. Then get a copy for yourself.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.