Published by Simon and Schuster Australia on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
This is a story about two boys, representing darkness and light, who form a beautiful friendship, discover who they are, and eventually, fall in love.
Ari (or Aristotle) is the dark, in both his skin and his thoughts. He has trouble connecting with his family, with his post-war dad who keeps to himself and his inmate brother which no one talks about. In contrast, Dante is the light, he’s a talkative, emotional and kind hearted soul who just shines through the way he connects with Ari.
Both boys struggle with their own identity and go on a journey to “discover the secrets of the universe” to find their place in the world. One will go down the path of a lone soldier, filled with angry thoughts and emotion, while the other will experiment, live like variety is the spice of life and divulge his deepest thoughts to his new friend.
Until Dante, being with other people was the hardest thing in the world for me. But Dante made talking and living and feeling seem like all those things were perfectly natural. Not in my world, they weren’t.
Ari is very much a boy’s boy who prefers to talk with his fists. He keeps to himself a lot and is afraid of letting his dark thoughts show through. He mainly keeps others at a distance, until Dante comes along and forms a bond with him. He never pushes Ari to share more than he’s comfortable with, and his talkative nature suits the more reserved Ari really well. You really see how Ari finds the lighter parts of life with Dante around, and it was beautiful to see. The boys needed each other in their journey to discover the deeper parts of life, to feel love and pain and understand all the things that make us human. I loved seeing how their friendship developed and how their differences in personality came through.
Their families were also a very present and important part of their lives. Both sets of parents really cared about their sons, even though their relationship and parenting was quite different. Ari has a big family, with two sisters, parents and his unknown brother and they kept a lot of secrets about his brother to protect him. Dante’s parents on the other hand, were very warm, welcoming and caring, which showed Ari what a positive influence parents could be on his life. It was wonderful seeing how their parents understood their sons really well and the acceptance that they showed. We need more positive examples of families in YA today and I’m sure many people found their influence very heart warming.
…Dante’s mother loved him more than he would ever know. I didn’t know what to do with that piece of information. So I just kept it inside. That’s what I did with everything. Kept it inside.
Diversity is not always done well, but in Aristotle and Dante, it was seamless. Both boys are from Mexican families, and it didn’t shy away from their culture and stereotypes throughout the book. At one stage, Ari gets a red pickup truck car and talks about pimping it up, which was hilarious.
Aristotle and Dante is a story about identity, finding your relevance in the world, learning that it’s okay to go against the convention if it will result in beauty and happiness. It just so happens that there is a LGBT element in it, and the relationship that develops between these two achingly beautiful boys couldn’t be more right for each other.
It is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read, in the writing and the subject matter, and it is undoubtedly, my favourite read of 2014.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!