Hi everyone! I've decided to start a new custom on Blog For (Teen) Book Lovers. At the end of every month, I'll post about one Book of the Month--my favorite book that I read during a given month. For January, the book I'll be writing about is called Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (but since that's a bit of a mouthful, let's call it Aristotle and Dante) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
For a book that is at least ninety percent teenage angst, Aristotle and Dante was an amazing read. It covers a wide amount of themes, including homosexuality, racism and, well, the secrets of the universe, but the genre is purely realistic fiction--no doubt about it. Narrator and main character Ari is the antonym of his best friend Dante--where Ari is tough, Dante is emotional, and where Dante's family is close knit and open, Ari's is covering up a dark past incident that no one will tell him the whole story about. Still, Dante and Ari bring out the best in each other, and they stay friends through hospital visits and crises of identity. Dante and Ari slowly discover the secrets of the universe, right up until the shocking and touching final scene. This book was an interesting read for me. I'm a realistic fiction girl, but Dante and Ari are nothing like me--they're both Mexican boys from Arizona, struggling with things that I haven't even begun to think about yet--so you'd think I wouldn't be able to relate to them. But somehow, Sáenz's writing style--a perfect blend of frankness and imagery that was almost poetic in it's beauty--pulled me into the story and found me wanting to stand by Ari's side as he struggled with his race, family history and even sexuality (but I've said too much).
Aristotle and Dante is no easy read. It's a little dark, a little sad, and it's very mature, but I assure you that you won't regret sticking it out with Ari, because the final message of the book is one of pure, innocent hope. I'm a natural speed reader, so going back and really listening to what Ari was saying was difficult for me, but I was so glad I did. The revelations Ari and Dante make rang so true that I wanted to have them next to me, just to talk, so I could share even more in their wisdom. I think that we all want--no, need--to know the secrets of the universe. I'm grateful to Ari and Dante for helping me along the way.
"Do you think it'll 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."