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Recent Acquisitions

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

Recent Acquisitions

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publication Date: 2012-05-08

This is the kind of book you want to read aloud, so you don’t miss one single word. It’s charming. It’s fun. It’s quirky. All the characters you meet are a delightful mix of well-known and completely original. You want to hear all the sounds September hears, taste everything, see it all, and feel it all. While the plot-line is a familiar to all those classics (down-the-rabbit-hole, follow the yellow brick road, etc.), it brings in a modern voice and modern aspects.

September is the heroine and main character, and she is delightfully frank like many 12-year-old children. She acquires companions throughout the novel, like the Wizard of Oz, but are like none I’ve ever read: an almost-dragon who is also a third of a library and an almost-genie who is sad and shy and eats salt and stone.

My only complaint is that the chapters began to feel repetitive halfway through the novel. While the descriptions were completely different and the characters engaging, I felt the structure was not changing and neither were the outcomes. Girl meets Fairyland creature. Someone explains the creature. Something sad is discovered about the way Fairyland is run. Girl figures out one more thing about the Marquees that makes her dislike her a little more. But as soon as I got almost tired of it, September made the mistake of partaking in a fairy feast and began transforming into a tree, and things got vastly more interesting.

And, for the most part, there is enough mystery to keep you going throughout. When will the Key become important? Will we ever meet Queen Mallow? How will September get home to Nebraska? Will the Wyvern ever be unchained and able to fly again? These questions, and more, which I won’t spoil for you, drive the story through even if you can sense how the plot goes. Overall, an excellent modern fairy tale with rebellions, colorful characters, magic, and more. A good book for any middle school and above readers. It might even be a good chapter book to read at night, for each chapter is its own wonderful tale and then each word can be properly admired.

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

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