Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Book 1 in a duology
Genre: YA contemporary
Format: paperback, owned
I’ve seen this book all over social media and everyone was basically singing praises for it. I was really excited to get a copy and finally read it. But I just didn’t like it. This will likely be seen as an unpopular opinion, but I have my reasons.
I thought the story was very flat. Not much of anything really happened. Aristotle and Dante became friends fairly quickly and then it was mostly casual scenes and a lot of dialogue. There were a handful of moments I thought were important; six to be precise. I’m okay with casual plots, but there still needs to be stuff happening. The first big moment was nearly halfway through the book.
I didn’t like Aristotle at all. He had a flaring temper and attitude, and he felt sorry for himself a lot. I understood his confused view of the world – I thought it was realistic for a teenager. But that was really it. He didn’t have any friends before or aside from Dante, got angry when anyone said anything, but then didn’t try to actually make friends. He got irritated at his parents for caring and trying to understand but then felt bad for it and said he really loved them. Even in the beginning, he had serious mood swings. I couldn’t bring myself to like him or feel anything for him.
I had mixed feelings about Dante. On one hand, he was optimistic, sweet, caring, and passionate about art and literature. He loved his parents to pieces and was a loyal friend to Aristotle. He had a strong dislike for shoes and I thought that was amusing. I also liked that he let Aristotle know how much was too much. On the other hand, he cried a lot and was annoyingly stubborn. I don’t mind either in a character, but I felt like in Dante, it was a bit too much. I liked him, but I just couldn’t love him.
Oddly enough, I liked Aristotle’s and Dante’s parents the most. Both of them were solid couples, still married and in love, and all four of them genuinely cared about the boys. They had rules and stuck to them, but they were only a little overbearing. It’s always nice to read books where the main character(s) have parents that are involved and care about them. 😉
The story takes place in El Paso, Texas, in 1987-88. It was described fairly well, but it took me a few chapters before I realized it was in Texas. It’s also a good thing the year was mentioned within the first couple of pages because I wouldn’t have noticed until later, when I got more information and put the pieces together (minimal technology, lack of Starbucks). Like I said, it was described well, but there weren’t any vivid pictures in my head, not even of Aristotle and Dante.
Aristotle and Dante bonded quickly and they complemented each other well. I liked their friendship until the first twist – after that, there was more awkwardness than easy banter. I feel like that didn’t really get resolved as the story went on.
It’s said to have LGBT themes, but it was one-sided until the very end. Even before that, hints of it didn’t even come up until somewhere between ½ and ¾ through. It became more blatant as the end got closer, but it felt like more of a side detail than a theme for the majority of it. It was finally acknowledged and accepted in the last couple of chapters, but I think it would’ve been better if that happened sooner.
There weren’t really any twists in this book. There were a couple of events that I didn’t expect – the accidents, which you’ll understand if you’ve read it – but there wasn’t much of anything to predict. Like I mentioned, not very much happened – to me, it was all about Aristotle figuring himself, the people close to him, and the universe out (like the title says).
I went into the book expecting a dual perspective story. That isn’t what I got – Aristotle narrated the whole book. I wish there were chapters from Dante’s point of view because I think it would’ve been more interesting and I could’ve gotten something fresh and happier every few chapters. Aristotle didn’t really give me that, but I think Dante would’ve.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe just wasn’t my bar of chocolate.
Get it? Instead of cup of tea? I don’t like tea. Haha. I didn’t really like either of the main characters, the plot was lacking, and it didn’t feel like an LGBT book. It wasn’t terrible, despite what I said. I just couldn’t understand what everyone else seemed to see in it.
my rating: 2¼ out of 5 stars
Have you read this? Is it on your TBR? If you have read it, what did you think? Feel free to tell me in the comments! 🙂
** Don’t let my review discourage you from reading this. You might like it, even if I didn’t. 😉
I’ll be reading Shades of Earth by Beth Revis next! 😀