Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[Review] Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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In ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, two teen boys all in love with each other. The problem is, one of them won't admit that he's falling for his best friend.

What intrigued me: The LGBT premise!

Very Unique Writing

It took more than 150 pages for me to get used to the way Sáenz writes. I also have to say that I don’t believe this novel would ever have gotten published, had the author been a first-time novelist. Never. He writes very, very short sentences that make you feel like you’re reading a children’s book. 

Interestingly enough, Sáenz seems to be using this writing style as a stylistic device; the older Aristotle gets, the less frequently he writes like that. Another thing that massively annoyed me is that the novel basically is 90% dialogue.

The chapters are very unorganized and there is not really a clear plot line, it is rather a diary or maybe a story of Ari's and Dante's lives, told over the course of two years. However, I never lost the desire to find out what happens next, there a certain sense of suspense to it all, it feels like the whole novel leads up to something when you’re reading it.

Loveable Characters!

I can’t recall the last time I cared so much for a protagonist.

Ari is a typical, lost 15-year old who doesn’t really know what he wants, but knows exactly what he doesn’t want. It feels like you’re reading about a 12-year-old, especially in the beginning. And Dante, despite being basically a main character, remains extremely absent, not only physically in the story, but rather as a person. All he does, is cry and get upset and hurt. I don’t really know as a reader what he is like and what made Ari fall in love with him. That’s not a good sign at all, given that the novel is more than 300 pages long.

I feel like Sáenz knows exactly how to write adult characters. I loved both their parents, i connected to them emotionally, no matter how many lines they had. I cared about the backstory of Ari’s parents and I wouldn’t have minded going bowling with Dante’s parents. They’re beautiful characters but I’m getting the impression that YA is not so much Sáenz’s department. Especially because every single one of the teen characters remained so unimportant and could’ve just been left out.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

I’m going to go with maybe. This isn’t a typical novel. This isn’t even a typical love story. The writing is very unique. Still, I insist to call this thing a work of art, because I didn’t just finish it.

I feel like this novel is still with me and that’s really all an author can ask for, isn’t it? I’d recommend this novel  for people who are patient and open-minded and like to dream, but I warn you, once you get into it, you won’t be able to let go.

Additional Info

Published: Feburary 21st 2012
Pages: 368
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: YA / LGBTQ*
ISBN: 9781442408920

"Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be."
(Source: Goodreads)


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