Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Book - 2012

Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.

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YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Saenz Benjamin
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Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Saenz Benjamin Due Oct 10, 2022
Subjects
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster BFYR c2012.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Item Description
Ages 12 up.
Physical Description
359 p. ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781442408937
1442408936
9781442408920
1442408928
Main Author
Benjamin Alire Sáenz (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

When Aristotle and Dante meet, in the summer of 1987, they are 15-year-olds existing in "the universe between boys and men." The two are opposites in most ways: Dante is sure of his place in the world, while Ari feels he may never know who he is or what he wants. But both are thoughtful about their feelings and interactions with others, and this title is primarily focused on the back-and-forth in their relationship over the course of a year. Family issues take center stage, as well as issues of Mexican identity, but the heart of the novel is Dante's openness about his homosexuality and Ari's suppression of his. Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, 2004) writes toward the end of the novel that "to be careful with people and words was a rare and beautiful thing." And that's exactly what Sáenz does—he treats his characters carefully, giving them space and time to find their place in the world, and to find each other. This moves at a slower pace than many YA novels, but patient readers, and those struggling with their own sexuality, may find it to be a thought-provoking read. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Bored and angry in the summer of 1987, 15-year-old Ari heads to the pool even though he cannot swim. Dante, a boy his same age, offers to teach him, beginning a friendship that will leave them wholly changed. Both are Mexican Americans, and there the similarity ends. Where Dante is an only child, open and loving with his intellectual family, Ari (short for Aristotle) is closed, brooding over the secret of a brother in prison. When Dante comes out to his friend, and confesses that his feelings for him might be more than Platonic (pun intended), Ari stays loyal despite his uncertainty, because for him, a world with Dante is much better than one without him. Together they attempt to unravel the secrets of the universe, and of their own families. Sáenz' gifts for lyric prose and pitch-perfect dialog communicate the inner workings of a complex, loving, narrator, on the verge of discovering the truth of his own body in a book that is as beautiful as the desert sky on the outskirts of the boy's native El Paso. — "35 Going on 13" LJ Reviews 6/21/12 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Word on the Street Lit, 6/21

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Fifteen-year-old Aristotle (Ari) has always felt lonely and distant from people until he meets Dante, a boy from another school who teaches him how to swim. As trust grows between the boys and they become friends (a first for Ari), Ari's world opens up while they discuss life, art, literature, and their Mexican-American roots. Additionally, the influence of Dante's warm, open family (they even have a "no secrets" rule) is shaping Ari's relationship with his parents, particularly in regard to a family secret; Ari has an older brother in prison, who no one ever mentions. In a poetic coming-of-age story written in concise first-person narrative, Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) crystallizes significant turning points in the boys' relationship, especially as Ari comes to understand that Dante's feelings for him extend beyond friendship. The story swells to a dramatic climax as Ari's loyalties are tested, and he confronts his most deeply buried fears and desires. It's a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame. Ages 12–up. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 9 Up—In the summer of 1987 in El Paso, TX, two 15-year-old loners meet when Dante offers to teach Ari to swim, and they have a laugh over their unusual names. Though polar opposites in most aspects other than age and Mexican heritage, the teens form an instant bond and become inseparable. This poetic novel takes Ari, brooding and quiet, and with a brother in prison, and Dante, open and intellectual, through a year and a half of change, discovering secrets, and crossing borders from which there is no return. Two incidents, one in which Ari saves Dante's life and his family's temporary move to Chicago, help Dante understand that he is gay and in love with his friend. Yet, Ari can't cross that line, and not until Dante is hospitalized in a gay-bashing incident does he begin to realize the true depth of the love he has for him. With the help of his formerly distant, Vietnam-damaged father, Ari is finally able to shed his shame—the shame of his anger, of his incarcerated brother, of being different—and transition from boy to man. While this novel is a bit too literary at times for some readers, its authentic teen and Latino dialogue should make it a popular choice.—Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield [Page 134]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021)This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.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.