Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a book that comes with a lot of recommendation and awards on the cover - and for good reason. Ari and Dante are two teenage boys from El Paso, Texas with unconventional names. Ari is an introvert with a brother in prison and parents haunted by their own problems. Dante is an artistic and intellectual boy who seems radiant to Ari from the moment they meet. The relationship between the two boys blossoms as we witness them transcend through the problems of adolescence and grow into better versions of themselves.
In terms of plot, the story moves very slowly for the majority of the novel. While some readers might not enjoy this, I personally found that it gave the author time to develop characters and set up for the major events that happen near the end of the book. I thought the ending of the novel was profound, as it solves many of the problems that arise throughout the book while keeping the reader curious as to what may happen next in a potential sequel. The writing in this novel itself is very unique; it is simplistic and authentic to the voice of a teenage boy, yet meaningful enough to resonate with the reader. It manages to convey complex ideas and emotions without much purple prose.
One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the way the author characterizes the parents of both boys. Although Ari’s parents are initially a little distant as they are dealing with memories of Ari’s brother and the Vietnam War, they are extremely accepting and understanding in all situations and begin to communicate with him more by the end of the novel. Dante’s parents are equally supportive and loving, and I found it truly refreshing to read a young adult novel where parental figures are involved in the lives of their children as opposed to being absent.
Another facet of the book that I loved is the diversity of characters. Ari and Dante are both Mexican-American boys, and they both discover their sexualities over the course of the story. There is also a female character in a same sex relationship that has a strong influence on the plot, but I must stop at that to refrain from spoiling you.
Overall, I am smitten with this novel and have come to love it intensely. I highly recommend you add it to your to-be-read list, especially if you enjoy contemporary young adult novels.
Rascal Rating: 4.5 stars
Almas Khan is a fifteen-year-old artist, aspiring author, and avid consumer of dark chocolates. She lives in a small Canadian city where she spends most of her time with her nose in a book, battles the patriarchy, longs for a kitten, and does schoolwork. Find her on Tumblr and @itsalmaskhan.