Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 2014
Synopsis: 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 their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.
Comments: I don’t really do contemporary but when I do, I prefer them like this one. I absolutely just loved this book, like I want to absorb it into my being and soul. This book is a character driven book. Meaning: it seems like nothing is happening in the book. There’s is no plot. No big event the characters need to overcome or arrive at or survive. They just are. Thus it is slow moving. I was hard for me to get into at the beginning, because I kept expecting something to happen, something to trigger a cascade of events to move the story along…. but as I continued to read, I found myself invested in the characters and soon I found myself seeing the pieces coming together and then I found myself appreciating the friendship that the two boys developed. Somehow, somewhere from starting the first page and onto page 50 or so… I started to care about these two boys I wanted to see what would happen to them. What’s going to test this friendship? Who is going to be tested? And the most important question: how are these two boys going to react and persevere?
The writing isn’t complicated. There’s no purple or flowery pose here. But yet, the novel still was able to portray intricate details about the people and their lives, drawing readers further into the novel.
This one is not for everyone. However, if you like or can enjoy character driven books give this one a try.
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
Why the Recommendation: The main characters in each book suffers with identity crisis… and yet their counterparts in each book are very sure of themselves too. Although each pairing’s relationship do differ wildly, the sense of confusion and lost is shared between both books. While Aristotle is much more serious and complex, readers should be able to link the two books together by their self-searching identity theme.
One Man Guy by Michale Barakiva
Why the Recommendation: Though the Hispanic influence in Aristotle was very subtle, I came away from the book appreciating the small details of the cultural backgrounds of the Aristotle and Dante – granted, there weren’t grand desciptions of food like other cultural influenced books – there was the feelings of and questioning of being “Mexican enough”. In One Man Guy, though this book is more immersive in the cultural context, it also has a protagonist who feels a bit black sheepish for possibly being not Armenian enough.