Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
By Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Aristotle (or Ari) is an angry young man, frustrated by his closed-off father and his mother's unwillingness to talk about his imprisoned brother. Dante is a boy with an unique outlook and optimism to boot. When the two meet at the local pool, they don't think they have much in common. But as they spend more time together, they both soon realize that knowing the other will forever change them.
I remember, vaguely, hearing about this book after it was published last year. It was discussed over at Someday My Printz Will Come as having award potential. It sounded like an interesting book, and, I admit it, I love the cover art. So I kept meaning to read it. And, you know the story - I didn't get around to it. After it won a slew of honors at the Youth Media Awards, it moved to the top of my list of books I missed out on last year that I needed to read as soon as possible. It was one of the first books I knew I wanted to read for The Hub Reading Challenge, so I got right down to it as soon as it was available at the library.
This book, man, I can't even. This book completely sneaks up on a person. I don't even think I can accurately describe what I felt while reading this book. It starts out relatively slow and pretty much remains that way - I think it's safe to say that not a lot is actually happening throughout this book. But something bigger actually is, and maybe you're not really aware of it. What's happening is that you're falling in love with Aristotle and Dante - you are living alongside them, and fighting and feeling what they fight and feel. You are hoping they know how lucky they are - to have their parents, to have each other. You are hoping you realize how lucky YOU are - to have the people you love, to have amazing books like this one to remind you of all that luck. You are thinking what a lovely little book this is, with these characters who feel so real and all this emotion on every page. And before you know it, the book has completely cast its spell on you and your heart is breaking for Ari and Dante and you don't even know why and you never want this book to end and you are pretty sure that this is one of the best books you've ever read because it made you believe again and HOW DID IT DO THAT?
Suffice it to say that I absolutely adored this book. Saenz's prose is gorgeous, spell-binding and completely captivating. He has created absolutely believable characters who I truly feel like I know and care about. He has crafted a deceptively simple story that left me full of emotions I didn't expect. This is the first of his books I've read; it won't be my last. Truly, truly excellent and deserves all the praise and awards it's received.