Before I begin gushing about this novel, because, spoiler: it's gush-worthy, I'd like to announce some book club changes. Well, kind of. Really I'm just going to hint at said changes because I like a little suspense in my life.
This month marks the year anniversary of our book club, To Fill Up & Live. Our first birthday if you will. And because I obviously didn't get enough of the relaunching business last time around (that's not really why, but I'm a lil dramatic), we're relaunching the book club next month! There will be a new name and a new third co-host, a new direction and other new things. Just new, new, new. Except well same old club, same old love of books. So not really that new. But you get the point.
Eh, I've teased enough, yes? Ok, reviewing of the f-amazing book.
Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Main Characters: Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana
Main Plot: Aristotle and Dante seem like polar opposites, but it's those opposing forces that seem to draw them together. Over the course of a summer, they form an intense friendship that both of them needed much more than they thought they ever did. And they discover more things about the world, their families and themselves than they could have ever done alone.
"Maybe you'll be a writer," she said. "A poet." It sounded like such a beautiful thing when she said it. Too beautiful for me.
So I renamed myself Ari. If I switched the letter, my name was Air. I thought it might be a great thing to be the air. I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.
And it seemed to me that Dante's face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness. Wow, a world with darkness. How beautiful was that?
Words were different when they lived inside you.
He tried not to laugh, but he wasn't good at controlling all the laughter that lived inside of him.
It may be one of the longest book titles I've ever seen, but the book doesn't read long at all. I was deep into this book before I'd really even begun. And it was over just as quickly. But the in between, the story that lives between the pages of this beautiful cover, that was outstanding. Aristotle and Dante might just be my favorite novel of 2015 so far.
As you can see above, the novel has quite a few quotable lines. I found myself gasping at how beautiful Sáenz's language is and moreover, the poignancy of his sentiments. Although his writing is rather succinct, I really felt his words. Like an arrow, they hit the target through and through. Sáenz's writing is also very reflective, which adds tone and the intimate nature, reading like Ari's journal quite frequently. I think that's why we as readers feel so connected to Ari's character. We've been inside his head, and although at first he comes across quite haphazard and angst-ridden, we soon come to realize just how like us he really is. I felt incredibly connected to Ari. Even if I didn't relate 100% to his issues, I felt connected to the secrets, the denial and the happiness that he experienced throughout the story. Put simply, this novel moved me.
And the characters are strong. I quickly became obsessed with both Ari and Dante and especially with their friendship, which grew from an intense feelings of desperation and loneliness in both boys. From the start of the novel, it was clear that Ari really needed a friend and when he found Dante, who we learned also needed a friend despite his outgoing personality, I rejoiced. Their friendship produced an elated glee in me that I usually only reserve for the lovey, dovey relationships of contemporary romance novels. But I couldn't help myself, and I think this has a great deal to do with how strong Ari and Dante's personalities are. Dante is talkative, outgoing and self-assured and an incredibly fierce friend from start to finish. Ari is a little lost and confused and a whole lot of angry, but he isn't a push over nor is he a bully. Together, as Dante slowly breaks through Ari's defenses, they balance each other so well. I loved every single interaction between the two because the dialogue was so crisp and quite funny at times. Through them, Sáenz makes a very interesting (and in my opinion, true) acknowledgment about friendships and relationships in general.
As an advocate of the movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks, I really adore the diversity most in this novel. His characters are brown, Mexican to be specific, and he finds such effortless, yet still prominent, ways to weave their cultures and ethnicity into the story. Both Aristotle's and Dante's "Mexican-ness" is a big theme in the novel, but it never overshadows the story and it's never awkward the way that the mention of race or ethnicity or gender can sometimes be. As I was reading, I never really remembered that the characters are Mexican, but I also never really forgot it either. It's a difficult idea to explain, but Sáenz adds in references to culture in a way that doesn't detract from the story at all, but ends up greatly enhancing it. The occasional use of Spanish adds incredible warmth into the story, when I've seen foreign language (or slang) take the reader out of it in other works. You know they are Mexican, but it doesn't have any real baring on what you think about them as people, their friendship and their story lines. And it's quite beautiful because isn't that the way real life is suppose to be? I know I strive for that both in my writing and in my life.
Sáenz treats a few other topics similarly in this novel - highlighting diversity without throwing it under a microscope. He avoids stark generalities about certain characters, groups of people and society, and instead focuses solely on his characters, his Aristotle and his Dante and the world that develops both between and around them. I won't give specifics because I think that gives a little too much way, but I'll say that Sáenz treatment of these issues is refreshing. We should all strive to treat each person as uniquely their own instead of part of a general stereotypical population.
Safe to say, I loved this novel. But moreover, I have a deep appreciation for it. In a world overrun by utter romanticism and total despair in both books and television, Sáenz tells a unique story of family, friendship, and the completely average, yet magnificent beauty that they inspire. And it makes me want to dance in the rain :)
You didn't think that was it, did you? It's our birthday after all! As a small token of our appreciation for anyone who has participated in or simply read our monthly reviews, we're giving away a copy of this book. We want you to read it so badly that we're giving it away! That's how much we loved it <3 Check out the Rafflecopter to enter. And may the odds be ever... you know the drill by now, yes? :)
Deep breath. Have you read this book? What did you think? Let's fangirl in the comments!
Btw, you can head over to my bookshelf to check out some of my other views!