Friday, August 14, 2015

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

I’d like to start by saying that Aristotle (Ari) is a lonely boy, but it wouldn’t be fair and accurate. At the beginning of the story, he seemed to be content wallowing in his aloneness, bitterness, and own confusion. He rarely speaks with his family, although his mother tries. Ari’s only brother is in prison and his family avoids that story; his sisters are both far too senior from him and already married; and his father is disconnected, not by distance, but by an emotional barrier. Not that Ari himself didn’t have his own wall erected. He’s afraid of emotional attachment or emotional investment that will force him to be responsible for people’s feelings towards him. But he has too many emotions hidden inside, beautiful and sad, waiting to be let out.
I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that's not true.
There was no learning involved. I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt.

Dante, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. His perspective is nothing but positive. Talk about optimism at its heights here. He is crazy in love with his parents, whose opinions and support he highly values. He has a beautiful mind, emotional, loves reading, and enjoys art. Dante met Ari at the local swimming pool, offered the latter swimming lessons, and they quickly clicked as friends. Throughout the story, Dante spends every effort to breakdown Ari’s wall of fear, uncertainty, and bitterness.
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?

This is a slow but steady plot-driven mostly by its characters, whose likeability was a true investment. I love reading the stark difference between these two boys and their families, and how one influenced the other towards dealing with their problems. I love the realness and openness of each character. The breaking down of walls came with moments of self-discovery and life assessments.
This was what was wrong with me. All this time I had been trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, the secrets of my own body, of my own heart. All of the answers had always been so close and yet I'd always fought them without even knowing it.

Sáenz employed lyrical prose and tone that is most appealing to follow. Not everything was humorous, of course; there are plenty of hidden heartbreaks, mostly from Ari’s, but every moment can make the reader believe in the human race once again. There is something miraculous and brave about the ordinary, of friendship being rather liberating, and of discovering sexuality being worthy of some great effort, therefore inspiring.

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE is a charming read -a reflective and insightful journey of two pragmatic boys as they stagger and fight trying to discover who they really are, and was rewarded to know that the secrets of the universe weren’t hard to discover after all.

Book details:
Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Publication:  February 2012; Simon & Schuster
Genre:  YA Fiction
Rating:  ★★★★★

F2F41, @Milkyway Cafe, Makati.
Moderated by the very preggy Maria.
Photo courtesy of Maria Ella.


  1. I realize after looking at the picture that we've seen each other last May??

    1. Yes, sweetheart. Ever since school started, my schedule took to the wind! My only reprieve is reading.
      Hopefully,by October things will slow down enough for me to take a break. :)