Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benajamin Alire Saenze

Simon & Schuster Books

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benajmin Alire Saenze
3 Scribbles
Fifteen, bored, and miserable, Aristotle is your average teenage boy. The only thing to do for fun now that it is summer is read (which one can only do so many hours a day) go the pool (but he can’t swim) or listen to the radio (which plays nothing but trash).  Aristotle, or “Ari” for short, is not an only child, but since his sisters are much older, and his brother, who is prison, is a taboo subject, Ari spends a great deal of time alone. But when Ari meets Dante at the pool one summer, Ari discovers how nice it can be to have a friend, even one as quirky as Dante. First let me say that the novel is quite well-written, with incredibly strong voice. Ari’s character reminds me somewhat of Holden, from Catcher in the Rye. Dante’s character is honest and gentle, with an amazing family we all wish we had; Dante is the opposite in many ways of Ari. My guess is that teenaged boys, especially those who don’t fit into a clique or have any true passion like football or video games will really identify with the Ari, especially Mexican -American teens. That being said, the novel is quite slow-moving and introspective. Therefore, stronger readers will likely stick to the story, where weaker readers might drop out early. Yet, what really drops my rating of the novel is the ending.  It is as if the story takes an about-face in order to please the reader, rather than reflects the reality of life for these characters. Perhaps my limited knowledge of what it is like to be a homosexual boy, especially one during this decade, limits my understanding of the novel’s conclusion. However, I would guess that many readers might agree with my conclusion. I’d love to hear what others who have read this novel felt about its ending!

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