Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 21st, 2012
Standalone/Series: Book one in the Aristotle and Dante Universe
Genre: Contemporary – LGBTQ – Young Adult
My rating in stars: 5 stars
My rating in words: New all-time favorite!
What it’s about:
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.
“Do you think it will always be this way?”
“I mean, when do we start feeling like the world belongs to us?”
I wanted to tell him that the world would never belong to us. “I don’t know,” I said. “Tomorrow.”
This book is why I love reading. It was gorgeous and gripping and everything I could want from a book. It was a rollercoaster of emotions and touched my own nostalgically melancholic and hopeful teenage heart. It’s the kind of book that makes you stop to think constantly and gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling at the same time. It deserves all the hype and all the awards and so much more.
The story is set in the eighties and is told from the point of view of Aristotle (Ari for short) over the period of 1-2 years. Ari is a Mexican-American teenage boy, an introspective loner with some anger issues, who is suffering under the weight of his family’s secrets. Though he’s not a big talker, it was a joy seeing the story unfold from inside his head. His thoughts and musings were beautiful, both heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time . I think we can all relate to Ari to some degree. His thoughts certainly did speak to teenage me.
“I renamed myself Ari.
If I switched the letter, my name was Air.
I thought it might be a great thing to be the air.
I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.”
But Ari’s life changes completely, the day he meets Dante. Dante is a soft-hearted artist who is confident about himself, always speaks his mind and is not afraid to show his emotions. It’s almost impossible not to love him.
“He tried not to laugh, but he wasn’t good at controlling all the laughter that lived inside of him.”
So the two strike up a friendship which changes both of them. Together they help eachother through the perils of growing up, dealing with family, work, sexuality and identity issues. Together they set about trying to discover the secrets of the universe, while the reader can come along for the ride and it is magnificent.
Other than these 2 lovable characters, the writing style in this book is part of what makes it so very, very good. It’s a very rare style, written in a simple but still very poetic kind of way that just flows so well through the story. It felt a lot like stream of conciousness at times and I loved that so much. Also, the conversations between Ari and Dante (and actually all conversations with other characters as well) reminded me so much of some of my favorite movies: the Before Sunrise series. It was very similar in the way that there is not that much of a plot other than people talking and spending time together, but it gave me the same feelings and emotions and just overall warm fuzziness in my heart.
“Summer was here again. Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.”
Also, while the main theme is of course the friendship between the two boys and the evolution of that friendship, another important theme is family. I loved all family scenes in this book and I loved that each boy’s family was so very present in their lives. Yes, they are flawed and they have their issues, but they are there. Especially watching the dynamics of Ari’s family and the effect it had on him was wonderful.
“I decided that maybe we left each other alone too much. Leaving each other alone was killing us.”
I can’t recommend this book enough. If you have not yet read it, please do. I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. It was an amazing book that deserves all the praise it can get and the only thing I didn’t like about it was how it ended too soon. But then I heard a sequel is in the works, so that is the most amazing news ever, because I am so ready to have some more Ari and Dante in my life.
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.”
“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.”
“Senior year. And then life. Maybe that’s the way it worked. High school was just a prologue to the real novel. Everybody got to write you — but when you graduated, you got to write yourself. At graduation you got to collect your teacher’s pens and your parents’ pens and you got your own pen. And you could do all the writing. Yeah. Wouldn’t that be sweet?”
“This is my problem. I want other people to tell me how they feel. But I’m not so sure I want to return the favor.”
“i have this idea that the reason we have dreams is that we’re thinking about things that we don’t know we’re thinking about-and those things,well,they sneak out of us in our dreams.Maybe we’re like tires with too much air in them.The air has to leak out. That’s what dreams are.”