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



A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.


The most beautiful and emotional book I’ve read this year, probably ever. I won’t stop thinking about it anytime soon, and I know I’m going to reread it and love it just as much as I did the first time, if not more.

To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.

There’s a world inside this book, a world of emotions; all those emotions that torment teenagers and make that the hardest period in everyone’s life. But at the same time the most beautiful and intense journey we all have to take. Ari is just a boy, who feels so much but who doesn’t know how to deal with what he’s feeling, so he keeps it all bottled up. Until he meets Dante, a boy his age, who’s confident and, as Ari says, you can read whatever he’s thinking or feeling in his eyes.

I renamed myself Ari. If I switched the letter, my name was Air. I thought it might be a great thing to be the air. I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.

Ari wants to go through this “phase” unnoticed, he wants to grow up and finally understand, but that’s not possible. Dante, who seems to understand everything, who’s so different from everyone else, who’s kind and inherently good, who loves so wholly, and hates shoes, is the only one who can get under Ari’s skin.

And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness.
Wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?

As they spend the summer together they develop this amazing friendship, that goes beyond anything I’ve ever read about, it’s so deep, and honest, and without expectations. They just grow to be in each other’s company, laughing, talking, reading, and sharing their passions and deepest secrets. They don’t even need to talk most of the time, they just get it. And it’s beautiful.

Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.

Ari doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to acknowledge how much he’s worth, or what it is that he’s feeling. But I found the way his thoughts and instincts, unconsciously brought him to the truth about himself, so meaningful and accurate. Because it’s that’s exactly how it works; sometimes we just don’t want to find that truth about ourselves, because it scares us, or ashames us, or simply beacuse we’re not ready, but in the end we knew it all along.

“Do you think it will always be this way?”
“I mean, when do we start feeling like the world belongs to us?”
I wanted to tell him that the world would never belong to us. “I don’t know,” I said. “Tomorrow.”

Aside from Ari and Dante, I loved their families. It showed how every decision parents make influences a teen’s life. But that even adults are bound to make mistakes, they don’t always know everything, they’re just learning as they go. Ari and Dante’s parents are amazing, though, they all have their faults, but they love their sons so much, and that’s enough. They’re supportive and they’re always there for them, even when they’re scared and really don’t know how to hadle things. 

Until Dante, being with other people was the hardest thing in the world for me. But Dante made talking and living and feeling seem like all those things were perfectly natural. Not in my world, they weren’t.

I’m rambling, I’m sorry, I just finished this a few hours ago and I could talk about it for days. There’s just so much to talk about; this book was honest, raw, intense, heartfelt. It took my breath away, it made me laugh, it made me cry whenever setting sad or painful happened, or for no reason at all. That’s probably because it’s just so beautifully written, I could quote the whole book. I needed a few minutes at the end of every chapter to think about what I’d just read.

I love swimming”
“I know,” I said.
“I love swimming,” he said again. He was quiet for a little while. And then he said, “I love swimming—and you.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Swimming and you, Ari. Those are the things I love the most.”

So, yeah, I definitely recommend this one to everyone out there. I learned so much from this, and I feel like a better and richer person thanks to Ari and Dante’s story.

manuela calloway sisters



One thought on “Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

  1. Pingback: Recommendation Saturday: standalones | Calloway Books

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