Aristotle & Dante

Aristotle & Dante

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: Febuary 21st, 2012
by Simon and Schuster




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 friendshipβ€”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.


Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?

I feel ashamed at handing out a 3-star rating to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, mostly because it has received so much extensive praise from my trusted friends. In a way, it is exactly the novel everyone has promised it would be – lyrical and beautiful. On the other hand? I simply didn’t emotionally connect to it as much as I wished I would.

The story itself follows Aristotle “Ari” and Dante. With completely opposite personalities and interests, it seems unlikely that they’d bond, but they do. They find that they have a bond stronger than they could ever imagine, and they spend the summer trying to decipher the secrets of the universe.

Ari is mad. At his mother – who erased any trace of his imprisoned brother from the house. At his father – who served in the Navy and comes back more distant than ever.

Dante, on the other hand, is light, funny, and extroverted. He has an infatuation for poetry and art. And he’s homosexual.

Their bond was one that had an authenticity to it that made it feel completely genuine, and there’s no doubt in my mind as to why they became friends – despite their differences. Their friendship sometimes almost feels like…something more (Γ  la Anna and Elise’s in Dangerous Girls; and, even though the answer as to why is a bit obvious, it keeps you on your toes.

Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.

In my opinion, it speaks volumes when an author is willing to tackle difficult topics in a book. And Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe covers many. Friendship, the power of family, love, and staying true to yourself are all discussed in a powerful way here; and I found the messages to be wonderfully written. In society we have such a difficult time not labeling and identifying people based on their beliefs, race, religion, etc. What if we all just embraced each other for who we are, like Ari and Dante did? It’s such a powerful and necessary thought.

Exquisite writing and realistic characters are only some of the many fabulous things covered in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. While I can’t say it touched me as emotionally as it did most readers (I suppose maybe I’m just a stoned-face person?), I do think it is an important and obligatory read.

How could I have ever been ashamed of loving Dante Quintana?


44 thoughts on “Aristotle & Dante

  1. Aww, I’m sorry this didn’t touch you as emotionally as you hoped but I’m glad you were able to appreciate it regardless. I love this book as I truly felt it on such an emotional level through the subtle, quiet manner in which it develops but it is a tough book to get into at first and I can see where your disconnect comes from. Wonderful review, Zoe!

  2. Haha it’s ok that you’re giving it a 3-star (no it’s not…jk it’s fine). I thought it was a pretty fast read, AND YES the writing was beautiful! To be honest, I also wasn’t that attached to the characters, but I loved the issues that were being dealt with. So it was good πŸ˜€

    1. I’M SORRY VAL! πŸ™ I wish I could have liked it as much as you did. *sighs* I completely agree – I also loved how many serious issues were being dealt with here. It made the novel so complex and realistic.

  3. I’ve heard so many good things about this one! It’s unfortunate that you weren’t able to connect to the characters as much, but if the writing and story are as good as everyone says, I’m sure I will at least enjoy this one, if not love it. It’s wonderful to read about a strong friendship sometimes!

    1. I hope you end up enjoying this one too Charlene! πŸ˜€ There are so many glowing reviews for it, so hopefully you’ll end up with them in terms of enjoyment. πŸ˜€ Even if you don’t absolutely adore it, like you said, there will still be some great things here to enjoy.

  4. NO matter how good or how beautiful the writing is, you still have to connect to the story and/or characters. Sorry you didn’t and because of it you didn’t fall in love with it. I have yet to try it but I do want to at some point in time.

    1. Definitely Ali! πŸ˜€ It’s definitely something that I’d still recommend regardless because I truly did enjoy all the tough topics covered here. I hope you end up loving it!

  5. Three stars is still positive! I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t even read this yet D; But I will. I definitely agree with you and think that it’s a bit of an obligatory read, this one. Plus everyone raves on about it so I feel like I’ve got to check it out for myself. I love a bit of lyricism and it seems like this one will deliver. It’s unfortunate that you weren’t able to connect to the characters (but I totally understand. It’s happened to me so many times before!) Fabulous and honest review, as always, Zoe! <33

    1. Definitely! πŸ˜€ I can’t wait to see what you think of this one! It’s the kind of book that you just can’t help but read because of all the fabulous reviews, you know? πŸ˜€ I hope you end up loving it Jess! πŸ˜€ Thank you!

  6. Aw, there there, Zoe, you just don’t have a heart. XD LOL! I AM JUST JOKING WITH YOU! To be honest, I was dying for the first 50%. I just didn’t know where the story was going and I was a little bored. But…but then after that? I was totally in love with the writing and it was beautiful and I just ajfdskalfdaf. I did so love this book.

  7. AWww, too bad you weren’t able to enjoy it as much as I did, I just thought it was such a beautiful and touching story. Th writing was really beautiful, but that definitely isn’t everything. I hope your next read is better, and I’m glad you at least gave this a shot.

    1. It is definitely beautiful and touching Jeann – I just wasn’t able to like it as much as most people were for whatever reason. Thank you!

    1. I’M SORRY I HAVE DISAPPOINTED YOU JOY! I can definitely see why you liked it so much – it is a beautiful and touching read.

  8. This book has such a gorgeous cover, it’s a shame you couldn’t connect with the characters. I’ve had that happen to me beforeβ€”where the writing is utterly gorgeous, but the characters just don’t do it. I’m still interested in reading this one, but I might just hold off.

    Lovely review, Zoe!

    1. Definitely still give it a try Hafsah, because I appear to be the black sheep with this one. I hope if you do give it a try that you enjoy it. Thank you!

  9. Emotional and beautiful writing is something that gets me every time and something I cherish so much. I’m dying to read this one now but also I’m afraid that I’ll experience the same thing. It’s really hard to enjoy the novel when you don’t connect with the characters emotionally. I’m so sorry that it happened with this book. Great review, Zoe!

    1. Same Tanja! Especially Jodi Lynn Anderson’s writing. –> :heart_eyes: I completely understand your worry, but definitely still give this a try because it seems like I’m the black sheep here. Thank you!

  10. Lovely review! I’m sorry you didn’t connect as much as others have, but I am really curious about this one…and it seems like you appreciated it overall. Sometimes that’s all you need.

    1. Thanks Lauren! πŸ™‚ It’s definitely disappointing not being able to follow the hype, but oh well! *sighs* It’s definitely worth the read and I loved how it covered such difficult topics, but other than that it was a bit mediocre. Like you said, sometimes the fact that you appreciate it at all is a defining factor.

  11. I’m still really looking forward to reading this! I’m sorry it didn’t touch you emotionally and that you couldn’t connect. That’s always so disappointing, especially when people you trust are praising it with high regard. I’m really intrigued to read about Ari and Dante’s friendship, though, so I’ll likely pick it up soon. πŸ™‚ Great review, Zoe!

    1. You should still look forward to this Sydney because it was really well-done. I may have not adored it like most of the other readers have, but I did enjoy it regardless. I can’t wait to hear what you think when you read it! πŸ˜€ Thank you!

  12. I’m one of those readers that went completely bonkers over this book. I feel in love with Dante, Ari not so much. I can understand why you couldn’t find that emotional connection though, I found myself wavering when the boys found themselves separated, and the bond kid of fizzled. It felt like a bit of a lull and stopped the flow of their friendship. I’m so glad you enjoyed it despite not falling in love with it’s characters and their journey.
    Brilliant review Zoe <3

    1. I’M SORRY I LET YOU DOWN KELLY! πŸ˜₯ I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, and I can completely see why. For some reason it just didn’t click with me like it did with you, you know? And I know what you’re saying! I wish they wouldn’t have separated because that was where my interest went downhill just the slightest bit.

      Thank you! <3

  13. I’ve heard so many good things about this book so I’m not surprised you enjoyed it too πŸ™‚ I don’t really read books about LGBT and stuff, but somehow the plot seems really interesting. Since it’s overhyped so much, I’m a little doubtful with picking it up, but I’m hoping to take more interest in it. Thanks for the beautiful review, Zoe! I’ve always loved your reviews πŸ˜€

    1. There have been SO many gushing reviews on this one, haven’t there? πŸ˜€ I don’t usually read LGBT or straightforward romance much either, but this was obviously an exception because I was dying to see what all the hype was about. :smirk: And I completely understand your worry! I hope it doesn’t let you down and that you end up adoring it like everyone else!

      Thank you for the beautiful comment! :heart: And aww…thank you! Right back at you!

  14. I’m sorry it wasn’t as awesome as you thought it would be. Like you I heard great things about it and I confess that I’m quite curious. It sounds welld done. Great review my friend.

    1. Thanks Melliane! It was definitely a bit disappointing. I can’t wait to see what you think if you end up giving it a try.

  15. I just recently bought a copy of this book after seeing all the glowing reviews for it, and I can’t wait to read it now. Even though you didn’t connect with the story as much as you thought you would (which has happened to me in some cases as well), glad to hear you still enjoyed it. Fantastic review Zoe!

    1. I HOPE YOU LIKE IT EUGENIA! (Haha…the hype finally got to you? ;)) Thank you so much for your sweet words – I hope you end up enjoying it as well!

  16. I still haven’t read this one yet.. Definitely need to read it ASAP. Awww, such a shame about how you couldn’t get emotionally attached to the characters! That’s always such a bummer in books like how you describe this one!! Absolutely LOVE your review πŸ™‚

    1. YES YOU DO GINA! Even though it wasn’t perfect, it’s definitely still a worthwhile read. πŸ™‚ And I completely agree – not just in contemporary books, but in all books in general – if you can’t connect to the characters, the book itself definitely isn’t as good as a result.

      Thanks! πŸ˜€

  17. I may be the only one, but I didn’t feel like Ari was mad at so many people. I actually found him calm but, yeah, stubborn that yes, you know? I’m very glad you enjoyed it overall, even though I wish you had connected more with…everything. Great review, Zoe! πŸ™‚

  18. You are so not a stone-faced person! You’re one of the loveliest people I’ve met through blogging, so don’t ever say that about yourself! <3 <3

    This book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I've heard only good things about it. I love the brilliant messages it relays and the friendship between the characters are so beautiful. I understand where you're coming from though, sometimes a book is amazing but there's just no spark between the reader and it. But it doesn't mean it's a bad book.

    Wonderful review as always Zoe xx

  19. I’ve read this review on your blog and on Goodreads and I could have sworn I commented on it!

    You’re definitely not a stony person, because different books and different characters connect to different people in different ways (ALL THE DIFFERENT). But it’s great that you still managed to enjoy the book and see its importance regardless of this lack of connection.

    I keep seeing amazing reviews of this book, so much so that I bought a copy a few months ago, but I’ve still yet to read it. I think it sounds like something I could well and truly fall in love with, and I hope that’s the case! πŸ˜€

  20. I totally understand! For a while I was a bit… bored, but after connecting more with Ari and Dante I couldn’t help but read fast.

    I gave it 5 stars because of the overall feels and the ending, but hey, at least you liked it! Wonderful review, Zoe!

  21. Fantastic review! I must admit, that I’m sorry you didn’t love it as much as everyone (or so it seems) else that has read it (myself) included – but I’m glad you enjoyed it over all. And, the writing really is beautiful.

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