aristotle and dante

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This is one of the big winners of the ALA Awards this year.  It won the Stonewall Book Award, the Pura Belpre Author Award, a Printz Honor, and was on the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list.  So I’m not sure what I can say about it beyond that it is one incredible read!

Ari has his entire empty summer ahead of him so he one day he heads to the pool even though he can’t swim.  There he meets Dante, a confident boy just his age, who offers to teach him to swim.  Through that one act, the friendship between these two loners is formed.  They have very little in common except that they are both Mexican Americans.  Ari tends to be angry, is able and willing to fight, and can’t communicate with his father.  Dante, on the other hand, goes to a private school, reads poetry, sketches and actually gives his father kisses.  The two boys form a strong bond with one another, able to have long conversations and tell each other everything.  Well almost everything.

This book is an interplay of strength and fragility with Ari, the physically strong and more strident one, being actually the more fragile as you see deeper under the surface.  It is about the way that friendships form in unlikely places, flourish and potentially fall apart over small things.  It is a book of celebration, a book that wonders at the desert night filled with stars.  It is a book that explores what it means to be gay, what it means to have a best friend that is gay.  It is about being a hero, finding your truth and moving ahead past doubt.

Beautiful, strong and incredibly brave, this book reads like a poem read aloud by a best friend.  Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from library copy.