I mention this book so much so I thought that, of course, the obvious thing to do is to write a review on it.
And shove it in your faces to read even more. That’s an excellent plan!! (It sounded better in my head I promise). (and to that ONE PERSON who reads this… sorry.)
No, but in all serious, (which, tbh, is very hard for me on my blog) today I thought for Pride month, I’d review a backlist book which I completely adore
and that I don’t think I’ve talked enough about – Ari and Dante. I hope that if you haven’t picked it up that you get a chance to try it soon, since I know it means so much to me and many others.
**book cover taken from goodreads as always, photo of book was taken by me :))
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE
– BENJAMIN ALIRE SAENZ –
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.
rating: ★★★★★ read a total of FOUR times (wait what i thought it was only three)
I don’t even know where to begin with this, except that it never fails to make me cry every time, even when I know what’s going to happen.
Set in Texas in the 1980s, the novel is told from Ari’s point of view – which I adore. I mean, I would probably equally adore it if Dante told it, but I still love Ari so much. I love both of them!!!! Each chapter is relatively short – only a few pages long at most, but every page has so much meaning and intent behind it.
It’s a book I can’t think about without an overwhelming need to hug every character. A book I cry through every single time. One that I get more and more meaning out of every time I read, one that makes me feel seen and sad, and I love it so much for every moment.
The character development is incredible, just to add to the list of things I love. Ari is sad and broken when we meet him – longing to know his father, know where he fits in, to know himself. He is angry at the world for so many things – some of which he knows, some of which he’s still discovering.
And then he meets Dante at the pool one day.
“Swimming and you, Ari. Those are the things I love the most.”
Meeting Dante, who is a ray of sunshine and joy, who is positive and kind beyond belief, this boy who is the opposite of everything Ari stands for and everything Ari is… well that might just make the summer bearable.
He teaches Ari how to swim, but he teaches him more than that. Dante gives Ari something he hasn’t had in a long time – something steady to rely and fall back on. The relationship that develops between the two is, well, it’s what the book is – and the interactions and undying affection and trust is the most delicate and beautiful part.
Ari and Dante are both Mexican, which is another beautifully written aspect of this book. The culture, the language, the nicknames – it all provide a wonderful insight into a life I know nothing about, but I love it regardless. Dante never feels ‘Mexican enough’ which I relate to immensely. Ari feels a similar way about his behaviour, but he is more certain in his heritage. It comes up often, and it influences the friendship in the smallest of ways. Dante is unshakeable throughout most of it, and he is unapologetically himself.
I’m so in love with Dante and Ari and the families (!!!) and Legs, it’s not even funny. Dante is just a small sunshine boy and then Ari is all hard edges but they don’t try and fix each other – which could have made it so much worse. They make each other whole again, and they don’t try and fix everything for the other, they just be. And that works.
“I don’t always have to understand the people I love.”
One of the core themes explored in this is love – of all kinds. It’s about love from your family. Love from people who might struggle to say it sometimes but who would do anything for you. The love your chosen family can show you in letters, in words, in red trucks. It’s about the fierce bond between two boys and the way love crashes and dictates and doesn’t stop.
The book focuses so much on the characters, it doesn’t leave much room for plot points – which I didn’t mind in this. Events happen and it’s a rollercoaster at times for sure, but at it’s core Aristotle and Dante is the story of two summers and two boys and one love. It didn’t try to be unrealistic (some would argue otherwise in light of certain… events), or a fast paced thrilling contemporary. It was itself, and that sums up everything this book lives and breathes which makes it the perfect way to tell Ari and Dante’s story.
It is very dialogue heavy and isn’t tagged for the most part, so it can be a bit of work sometimes to read, but it’s ultimately worth it. I actually appreciated it, as it contributed to the simplistic feel of the book and provided a raw look at the easy conversation held.
I am in love with this novel in so many ways. I am in love with everybody and everything that happens, I am in love with love, and I am in love with this love.
But most of all I am in love with the two boys who are both a bit broken in their own way, and I am in love with the journey they take to learn to be okay. I see new parts of me in both Ari and Dante every time I read it, and I smile and cry through all the rereads. I truly hope you read this because it’s simply gorgeous.
apart from the fact i talk about it almost non-stop, have you been convinced to pick this up? (if you do, PLEASE let me know i will happily scream with you!!) have you read it? did you love it as much as i did?