Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself. But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in the way, and only by believing in each other – and the power of their friendship – can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side”

REVIEW: This book was both easy to read and difficult to put down, and deals brilliantly with the issues surrounding self-discovery, family and sexuality that are often the most questioned in the minds of teenagers. Although the characters of Aristotle and Dante are extremely different, both boys are in the midst of a struggle to discover who they are and want they want to get out of life. As the friendship between the two boys begins to blossom into something more, deeper and darker issues begin to emerge that threaten to tear them apart for good – for example, when Ari saves Dante from a near-fatal car accident or when Dante is beaten by a homophobic gang of boys. Despite their rocky relationship, Ari and Dante are constantly helping each other to see different ways and forms of life, and their bond is sealed with the friendship that develops between their parents and by the love that they both develop for Ari’s adopted dog, Legs. What I enjoyed most about this book, however, is the fact that it deals with something that the majority of books for teenagers often skirt around – homosexuality. It is refreshing to read of something other than a heterosexual relationship developing in YA fiction, and although this has become more popular lately with works such as those by David Leviathan, it is still fantastic that authors like Saenz are trying to make homosexuality and more acceptable and topical norm in teenage society. For this reason alone I think Saenz deserved all the credit he received from organisations like the Stonewall association, and am very proud to be a part of spreading the word about this angst-filled, but also humorous, novel.

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