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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publication Date: 2012-02-21

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



This book will keep pleasantly surprising you. Aristotle and Dante are two Mexican-American high schoolers who meet at the start of summer at a swimming pool, and from there the novel follows them through friendship together during summer months and apart during the school year. I expected a coming-of-age defined plot, and I got a lyrical novel more about the back and forth than too many defined events, and that was just fine. This is a good read for ages 12 and up.

Saenz has a way of talking about what we don’t talk about: loneliness, friendships, love, parents, dreams, sexuality. Even being Mexican-American but not feeling either way either Mexican or American. And it’s so beautifully written. While the beginning can feel a bit melodramatic, it’s because you’re inside Ari’s head and he thinks a lot more than he ever says. And the more you read in Ari’s head, the more you like it. He has such a lovely way of observing the people around him and of seeing the universe, while at the same time having such an anger about the world.The contrast and similarities between Ari, who feels a lot but expresses almost nothing, and Dante, who also feels a lot but expresses it all with an astounding openness, take each of them to heights of humanity (or, the secrets of the universe) in ways they could not without done each other. They loved each other as best friends, and then they fell in love as more than best friends.

Structurally, the lyrical novel has such a nice symmetry with summers. You can feel the boys growing up just from one summer to the next, from reading about their experiences, moods, and feelings. The chapters can be super short, but it’s refreshing. This book is recommended for those who enjoy poetic coming-of-age stories.



~Olivia Tooker, Willard Library Student Intern and Caffeine-addicted Bibliophile

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