Friday, August 1, 2014

REVIEW: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

(Blurb from Goodreads) 
A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

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.

Every once in a while, there is the sort of book you pick up - one or two of your Goodreads friends might have five - starred it - and you might not even have heard about it before it appeared in your Goodreads feed.

This was that sort of book.

It isn't a book that comes demanding glorifying reviews. It isn't a book whose SP is "This book will change your life". It isn't a book in which a character's gay-ness is a Major Plot Point.

This book is exactly what the title says. Two boys with funny names, and an unclear sense of their identity, in pursuit of the secrets of the universe.

Profound, huh?

There isn't a straightforward honest to god PLOT. There are no evil high school cheerleaders, no alcoholic parents, no crimes in which the character is a suspect, no sudden baffling powers, and no monsters. Except for the ones inside us.

This review is turning into something that's neither here nor there.

The characters become people you've known for a while now. Ari with his anger. Dante with his wisdom. Ari and Dante with all their guilty pleasures. Ari's dad with all the secrets. Ari's mom with all the hurt. Dante's parents with all their capacity to love.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz has a beautiful way of writing. It hints at his power of language but also speaks of his deliberate usage of simple language - it was Ari talking. When a fifteen year old questions the universe, he doesn't use big words. Like Ari says, "To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing."

I had to travel 24 hours on the bus for one week. So it was roughly a book per day. That was how I picked up the book. Out of desperation. But I felt a constant smile on my face. Sad smile. Fond smile. Happy smile. "These boys" smile.

VERDICT - Five stars. 

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